Tag: Jesus Christ

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”.

 

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT GOD

Thank you to my loyal readers who keep coming back and wondering where I’ve been: I’m planning on being back regularly from now on…

Two things have been on my mind lately above others. One is our current political and social climate, and the other is the widespread belittlement of God even among professing believers. These two things are inextricably linked. The loss of reverence for our Creator in society as a whole but also in the Church, was bound to result in lawlessness and degradation. The worst aspect to this is that many professing Christians have succumbed to it-often without realizing it themselves. Our testimony and witness to the world is compromised by our own lack of belief, dedication, and fear of God.

The half-hearted church was foreseen by our God, and we can know how He feels about it:

“So, because you are luke-warm-neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth…” (Revelation 3:16).

The corrupt, compromising church was also foreseen by Him who knows the end from the beginning, so that He warned us to separate ourselves from the evils of fallen man:

“Come out of her my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues…” (Revelation 18:4).

Those who reject the deity of Jesus, who reject the fact that our God created all things, who reject the supremacy of Scripture, and who put their own words and the words of their favourite teachers above Scripture are all included in references to hypocrites and false teachers contained in the New Testament especially, but also in the Old. And once you cast off from the absoluteness of the truth of Scripture and invent your own, you are then metaphorically on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, without navigation, radio contact, charts, or even the benefit of experience.

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Ironically, the One who will spit the luke-warm church out of His mouth identifies himself as “…the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14).

Just as bad as the rejection of the Bible as our ultimate guide, is the determination to use it to support false teachings and faulty or corrupted interpretation. This attitude is rampant in the Christian world now: “Let’s follow what so-and-so says and find one or two verses which appear to back him up”. In contrast, Scripture tells us:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man…” (Jeremiah 17:5).

The Western World is now in moral free-fall, and there’s no way of stopping or slowing that fall if all we have to offer is a few jangling guitars and singers shaking their hair, a weak impersonation for spiritual gifts, an effort to bow to political correctness, and politicians who make promises in order to promote themselves. (Having said that, I say “Trump 2020!” The alternative is the destruction of America and so the West).

More than that, we have an insular Church which has largely rejected what God has to say. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” says the word of God, and, “In six days God created the heavens and the earth”. A large percentage of ministers prefer to follow what unbelievers and atheists say-that in the beginning, billions of years ago, something happened, our ancestors crawled out of slime and swung in trees, and later on God, or a few good teachers, came along and got involved, trying to get us all to be nice to each other. This is belittling God and calling Him a liar. This is putting the word of fallen, God-rejecting mankind above the Word of the Immortal, Almighty, Omni-present, omniscient Creator and sustainer of all things. This is nothing short of foolishness!

It not only calls God a liar, it calls Him weak and  incapable and irrelevant. “We know it’s all science now” is one pathetic view: pathetic because the real logic is that anyone who created all things would have to be The Master and Creator of science! Did an infinite being create all things by His infinite miraculous power, or did the universe create? That’s your choice! There’s no middle ground without putting God down beneath the feet of man.

Any true science today is only observing the handiwork of God. He is the Creator of science…not someone who just came along so that he could make us fall over backwards, or offer us new ways of being nice to each other. God is our Creator and He will be our Judge! He has the power to save us or to throw us into hell!

Its time for those of us who are serious about our faith to fall on our knees and worship the incredible being who made us, and who holds our souls in His hands.

 

EMBRACING DIVISION

If you’re interested in truth you belong to a rare breed in today’s world. In fact, truth is so out of style that a large number of individuals and organizations are intentionally working at avoiding it, and in preventing you from finding it…

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Who checks the so-called “fact checkers”? Where did they get their diplomas in absolute truth and neutrality? The answer is that they didn’t: the claim of neutrality is itself a lie, a deception. Even judges are making rulings according to their political and social biases. The Supreme and only Judge will one day call them to account. So-called “news” media and social media corporations are intentionally working hard to influence and sway millions of people-entire nations, both here in the US, and in my country of origin, the United Kingdom, and doubtless around the world.

The expressed desire of some that we should “all just get along” is, unfortunately, redundant, because “getting along”, and “uniting”, and “coming together” has to be done under their political, religious and social viewpoints and moral standards. There’s no more genuine debate to find genuine middle ground or to find the best way. There’s no more desire to go half way, or to compromise, or to come to an understanding of truth: we are all, whether we ever wished to be or not, of necessity taking sides.

This taking of sides was an unavoidable outcome of events which have transpired particularly in recent years. When you are publicly shamed or fired from your job because of a view you have, the concept of freedom is severely under assault. The time has come to either fold and go along with the pagan crown and the tide of godless secularism, or to take a stand and say, “No more”. If your nation is just about to be sold out to globalism and Marxism, the time has come to either give it up to the revolution, or to take a stand and do something to stop it while there’s still anything to be done.

And in the Christian world this division is also taking place. Pardon my duality, but to shrink the entire issue to nutshell size, on the one hand we have those who believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and on the other side, those who don’t. Behind all of what is taking place in politics and in society and in the church is the choosing of sides: do we want to live according to our Creators standards, or do we want to rebel and go our own way? People in the Christian world who have cut themselves adrift of the finality of scripture are really throwing in their lot with the political and social rebellion. To support my assertion, we can go to Scripture itself. If you profess to have faith but that idea offends you, be aware that you may really be travelling or at least loitering on that broad road which ultimately leads to destruction.

Of course, if the Bible is not your ultimate guide; if your favorite super-wealthy minister has got it more correct than God did; if your guide is your belly or your favorite activist or your sexual proclivities, what I have to say here will mean nothing to you. For the rest of us-those on the narrow road which alone leads to Life, be aware that Jesus Christ said this:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

Read the rest of that chapter and there can be no mistake: the world of people is not going to all get along, and there will be no peace until He returns. More than that, it’s God’s intention that the world of men be divided. Some professing Christians deny this fact. They are among those who reject the truth of scripture, except to use parts of it to promote their own ideas. The entire concept of the final judgment is as stark a reminder as can be that there are saints, and there are aints, and there is nothing in between. There is a heaven and there is a hell, and there’s no neutral part of the universe-God’s universe- where the agnostics and the uncommitted and the rebellious can retire to. There is no middle ground. There is no “salvation for all” from the wrath of a holy, almighty God apart from Jesus. There will be no world-wide revival and turning to God as some Charismatics claim, according to the testimony of scripture concerning last day things. Instead there will be a “falling away”, or “rebellion” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). And God himself has called us out of the world marching to destruction:

“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins have piled up to heaven…” (Revelation 18:4).