The Wages Of Sin Are A Slap On The Wrist summer Christianity Today reported that the Presbyterian Church USA was disallowing Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend’s hymn “In Christ Alone” into their hymn book because of a line that clashed with their theology. They sought permission to change the offending lines “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.”

Until I read about this decision, I was unaware of the controversial nature of the doctrine referred to as “penal substitution.” To be clear, the PCUSA says the problem they had wasn’t with the idea of God’s wrath but with the idea of it being satisfied. Others, however, who have weighed in on the controversy, make it clear that they do indeed have a problem with the idea of God’s wrath. See for example this explanation:

What inevitably results from the penal substitution theory of the atonement is the picture of a God who is a blood-thirsty monster who demands violence and death in order to satisfy his boundless wrath and who apparently can conceive of no other response to sin other than murder (which ironically is itself a sin). (excerpt from “The Wrath of God Was Satisfied?”

I’ve heard similar accusations against God before. God is heinous, apparently, according to this view, because He actually meant what He said when He told Adam that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. What’s more, when He said through the pen of Paul that the wages of sin is death, He only compounded the problem. Now people couldn’t view God the Father as heinous but Jesus as nice and loving because the New Testament was agreeing with the Old.

The ironic thing is that people who are rejecting God’s right to judge, are setting up themselves and their values as the “better way.” They are, in fact, judging God’s act of justice against sin and calling it “murder.”

People, apparently, don’t actually deserve to die. Our sin isn’t worthy of such a harsh punishment.

I’m not sure how those who hold this view explain that in fact, one out of one persons dies. We are actually and factually suffering the wages that God said would be ours as a result of sin.

The good news is that God has made a way of escape and life awaits us after death, if we accept by faith the gift of a cleared debt made possible by Jesus’s willingness to be our surrogate, to take the penalty we deserved.

The thing is, nothing could offer us a more complete view of God than this act of salvation. He is holy, so our sin separates us from Him. His is righteous, so His judgment is without error. He is just, so He doesn’t condemn that which is innocent. He is loving, so He is willing to redeem us at His own cost. He is merciful, so He forgives us when we have no hope of paying Him what we owe.

I could go on. It’s inconceivable that people who claim to be Christians are so willing to deny God’s nature in one area or another.

It’s honestly hard for me to imagine that thinking people could read the book of Leviticus and not see the picture of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world in the sin offering or the peace offering or in the Passover, or that they could read Genesis and not see the substitution of a ram for Isaac as the substitution of Christ for sinners.

The only way I can make sense of these accusations against God is to suppose that those saying God is a murderer simply do not believe that the wages of sin is death. Apparently, in their view, the wages of sin is a slap on the wrist. What’s needed then, is not a substitute to pay the price, but a gentle reminder or a stern reprimand because surely sinners know better and simply need a refresher course in how to please God.

Holding Life Loosely

holding plant looselyApparently humans have an innate survival instinct. Certainly celebrities have an obsession with looking younger than they are and sometimes a knack for acting more foolish than they ought to be (but that’s another subject).

I’ve seen a major change in our approach to doctors, too. It used to be you went to the doctor when you were sick. Then there developed an idea that you should have a routine physical. Now there’s almost an obsession (there’s that word again) with keeping track of our blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar and …

Then there are the things we shouldn’t eat, drink, or smoke and the things we should do religiously. All for the sake of adding years to our lives. This reminds me of a Woody Allen quote I heard recently:

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.

The thing is, both sides of that equation are wrong. Life doesn’t have to be full of misery, loneliness, and suffering. Well, maybe the suffering. But for God’s child, we are never alone–the tag line Wayne Thomas Batson used for his Door Within books. It’s beautiful and true. We have the Holy Spirit living in us. How much better is that than what the people of Israel had–God coming into their midst in the form of a cloud or fire.

We know God through His Son, through the sacrifice He made on our behalf. The most notable thing about God, then, is the extent He went to in order to bring us near. He does not want us to be alone. Or miserable. His presence provides peace that surpasses understanding. His Person gives us joy unspeakable.

The suffering isn’t even the same when we have this relationship with God. Yes, we all lose loved ones and we all face death–in one way or another we all have or will suffer. But God doesn’t leave us without His strength to cope. He says in one place in Scripture, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” Elsewhere he says when we stumble we won’t fall because He holds our hand. Then in David’s famous psalm, He says when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death He will be with us.

Which brings me to the other part of Woody Allen’s quote that he has wrong. It’s not over when it’s over. Death is the beginning of a new life experience, not the end.

When we understand this, we realize that we don’t have to cling to this life relentlessly or pretend that time isn’t passing. It is and it will and we can’t hold it back for the simple reason that our time is in God’s hands. He is the one who determines when we will pass from this life to the next.

It seems to me, if we try so hard to hold onto this life, our focus is in the wrong place. Paul says in Colossians

Therefore since you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. (3:1-2)

Of course the key is to have that relationship with God available only through Jesus Christ that makes it possible for us to experience His presence, His joy, His peace, and to look forward to the future, not some all-too-soon end.

“For to me, to live is Christ,” Paul said in Philippians, “and to die is gain.” What a difference the Savior makes!

Published in: on December 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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Eve’s Way or Adam’s

In discussing people who profess Christ but who don’t actually know Him in yesterday’s post, “But Lord, Lord …,” I posed a question early on: Are they lying?

I thought about that some more and have come to the realization that there are two ways to sin: Eve’s way and Adam’s.

According to Scripture, Eve was deceived. She herself reported this to God:

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:13)

But the New Testament agreed with her. Paul alluded to her being deluded when he wrote to the Corinthian church

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)

He was more pointed in his remarks to Timothy:

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim. 2:14)

A quick look at the Genesis account shows Eve talking with Satan in the guise of a serpent. The tempter took a tack he still uses today: “Indeed, has God said …”

On Eve’s behalf, unless God repeated the command, He gave His “don’t eat” warning to Adam:

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

So yes, God commanded the man, before He’d even created the woman.

Could it be that the Fall was nothing more than a communication problem? That men and women didn’t know how to talk to each other even then?

Well, no. Eve clearly repeated God’s command to Satan in response to his question. Has God really said … Yes, here’s what He said. When she concluded by conveying the consequences of disobedience, Satan countered by saying, “You surely will not die!” In fact, he continued, if you eat of the tree you’ll actually be like God.

So what was Eve thinking? She was deceived, deluded. In other words she didn’t make a conscious decision to disobey. She made an unconscious one. She decided, without realizing she was doing it, that God was not to be trusted, that what she wanted was more important than what He said.

She didn’t purposefully set out to rebel against God. Rather, she thought she was getting more reliable information than what she’d had before.

Remember, unless God repeated His command, she got that information from Adam. I’ve often wondered why Eve would believe Satan over God. The truth is, being deluded as she was, she didn’t think she was disbelieving God. She thought she was now operating on more knowledge than what she’d had before.

Adam’s was a different story. God told him directly what he could and could not eat. He had no misconception. Satan wasn’t pulling the “has God really said” trick on him. But Adam ate anyway. What was he thinking?

I can’t believe he hated God or determined to be His enemy. But that’s where he ended up. In essence he said, I understand God told me not to eat, but I’m going to anyway. Eyes open, he did want he wanted rather than what God wanted.

Scripture doesn’t say this, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that the man who had no other fitting companion among all of creation, didn’t want to lose the one person that was the perfect helpmate for him. If it’s true he took that stand, then he didn’t trust God to provide for him in light of Eve’s sin as He had since the day He put Adam on earth.

One way or the other, Adam walked into sin with his eyes open whereas Eve did so in a haze of delusion.

The important thing is that they both died. The consequence of their sin, while carrying some slight differences, in the end was one they shared–the one God warned them against, the one Satan called into question.

Here we are today, with Satan still saying loud and louder, Has God really said … Surely, NOT!

If he can delude people into thinking they’re getting some new piece of information from better scholarship, he’s fine with that. Or if he can get them to say, I know what God says, but I’m going to do what I want anyway, Satan is fine with that.

A deluded heart or open rebellion–Eve’s way or Adam’s? The means may be different, but their end is the same.

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Slaughter Of Civilians

Indiscriminate death, and some discriminate, has been in the news the past few days.

There were the killings in Seattle, where a gunman walked into a building and let bullets fly. Four people died. He then carjacked an SUV, killing the driver. When he was cornered by authorities, he put his gun to his head and killed himself.

That horrible event has been overshadowed by the slaughter of civilians in Syria. Government forces, or terrorist forces supporting the government, stormed into a town at night, going door to door and killing people in their homes. Over half of the victims were children.

In both instances, those who died were in places they believed to be safe, even protected.

One more similar story is on the news. An untold number of babies are being killed for no other reason than that they are of the “wrong” sex. Gendercide, the media has dubbed it–a practice that apparently a number of European countries have outlawed.

For whatever reason, the “in thing” touted by the influencers in our country seems to be whatever Europe is doing. But that’s a topic for another day. Suffice it to say, any number of liberals who would dismiss conversation about “gendercide” on the grounds that it is a conservative-backed concern, apparently are paying attention because the US is lagging behind Europe.

The idea that anyone is even questioning whether or not our government should take a stand against gendercide is astounding. We’re shocked by Syrian militia killing children in their beds, but not shocked by American medical personnel killing babies in theirs? Yes, the mother’s womb is the bed of these helpless infants–the place where they should be most protected, where they ought to be safe to grow to maturity.

When abortion was legalized in America, the feminist movement claimed a fetus was not alive, that it was part of the mother’s body, a bit of tissue. Years later, science has proven indisputably that these babies are in fact alive. Yet the feminist movement clings to the “right” of the woman to give birth, or not, to a baby she has conceived.

There are no moral grounds for this stance, simply legal rights those determined to uphold abortion still cling to. Hence these feminists, in the face of gendercide–which, incidentally, targets baby girls–must now choose, something they’ve insisted they should be allowed to do.

The problem is, either choice undermines who they are. If they take a stand against gendercide, they believe they are opening the door to an end of abortion. But if they stand against those who are trying to bring an end to gendercide, they are opening the door to crimes against women.

For those who believe the Bible, this ought not to be an issue. From the day Cain killed his brother Abel, God has outlawed murder. He also abhorred child sacrifice and condemned all nations, including His chosen people, when they did not care for orphans, widows, the poor, and strangers. In other words, we aren’t to abandon children, we aren’t to sacrifice them, and we aren’t to kill them.

Apparently our government has such a skewered moral compass that we can’t even determine that killing baby girls simply because they are girls is wrong. (See “Gendercide Abortion Ban Fails in the House”).

Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 7:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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When All You Have Is Now

Junior Seau had a smile that could light up a room even from the television screen. He was a hard-hitting, ferocious defensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers for twelve years before moving on to Miami and then New England. Successful, well-liked by fans and other players. Dearly loved by his family. And yesterday he was found dead, presumably the victim of a suicide.

The media is at a loss. He wasn’t doing drugs or out of money. In fact he was involved in the community, had his own foundation, was giving back to his school.

There was that little incident a few years ago when he was arrested for domestic violence and shortly thereafter drove his car off a cliff, but he said he fell asleep, so no red flag there! 🙄

In an effort to make sense of this tragedy, the media finally grasped the idea that maybe, just maybe head trauma was causing depression which could lead to suicide. The salient fact was the number of football players and hockey players (also a violent sport, we’re told) who have committed suicide within the last few years.

Interesting that no corroborative numbers were presented from the sport of boxing.

But here’s the point. The members of the media were grasping for an explanation. From their perspective, Mr. Seau had it all: fame, good looks, money, health, love, respect, usefulness. He was only 43, so hardly over the hill. He had all kinds of time to enjoy the life he’d worked so hard to create. It just doesn’t add up. Unless there was a medical reason for such a sad outcome.

Of course I’m no doctor and I didn’t know Junior Seau, so I’m not pretending that I have inside information or that I understand what went through his mind. I have no knowledge whatsoever about what was behind his death.

I do know that the media wouldn’t be at such a loss for influencing factors if they believed in something more than the good life. Did it never cross their minds that maybe, just maybe Mr. Seau had accomplished all his goals and found that he had nothing? Or perhaps he’d been living for football for so long that when it was gone, all the other things he tried to fit in its place left him empty?

Our Western culture doesn’t want to consider that the thing we idolize might actually fail to satisfy. So few people actually “make it,” so we hold those up as our role models: Oprah, Magic, Bill Gates. And when someone breaks into that elite group, we think surely they have attained happiness — the thing the rest of us are still pursuing.

I wonder if that might not be some of the fascination with celebrities — how does it look to have it all, how does it look to be in position to be happy?

Because the rest of us have Monday mornings and car payments, mortgages, laundry, and not enough time to work out. We have doctor bills and angry bosses and loud neighbors. The rich and famous — they can simply buy peace and quiet. Or party til the drop if they’d rather. Surely that’s the life. Isn’t it?

That’s sort of like saying life is good if you can eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of your life. As much as I love chocolate, I still know that I would not be satisfied if my steady and exclusive diet was something so lacking in nutritional value.

But our culture doesn’t look at “the good life” in such terms. The sad thing is, ninety-nine percent of the world looks at those of us in the US as having the good life. We actually illustrate the fact that having cars and smart phones and laptops and iPods and flat screens and houses and twenty pairs of shoes and, and, and … doesn’t satisfy. If it did, we’d stop trying so hard to get the next gadget, the next goody. We’d be content and start living within our means. We’d be more generous and worry less about losing what we have.

But no. We want our now to be better than it is, because that’s all we’ve got. If we die young or die poor, then we haven’t made it.

Sadly, that philosophy misses the mark because this life is not all there is. It’s much easier to be content in want or in plenty, as Paul said he was, if you know you have eternal riches stored up for you in heaven. The good life here or the suffering life is really one and the same — training camp for the real dance.

Published in: on May 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (8)  
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Darkest Before The Dawn

A couple years ago, I wrote a post with this same title, but today, I’m thinking about the topic a little differently.

Having read The Ale Boy’s Feast this week, a novel set in a dark, dark world, and anticipating next month’s supernatural suspense, Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, I couldn’t help but think a little about the subject.

What I’m wondering is whether or not most people consider their circumstances dark. I’m guessing, many do not. I suspect there are a great many who think that their ship might still come in. They might win the lottery, meet Mr. Right, get that long-hoped-for promotion, buy the right stock at just the right time, retire in perfect health with enough cash to attack that bucket list. And until then, there’s always the weekend.

Monday? Not so great. But the week gets moving and the weekend crawls closer, and things start looking up because it will be Par-tay time!

A dark world? Just ignore the irritating stuff. Complain about it if you have to, maybe write an angry letter to your congressman, call a talk show, or flip off the guy who cut in front of you on the freeway. But no worries, Man, Tomorrow the traffic won’t be so bad, the Next Thing will make me forget what I was complaining about on the radio, and in a few months we’ll vote the bums out of office, or try to.

And when things seem to crowd in, like a bad marriage or rebellious kids or the company going out of business or rising gas prices, just turn up the TV a little louder and pour another drink or pop another pill or smoke (and inhale) something numbing.

Darkness? What’s dark about living to get laid, or jolted by the rush of adrenaline at the race track or ball park? What’s dark about playing Wii with the kids or doing the soccer mom thing? What’s dark about barbecues in the backyard or planning vacations to Yellowstone?

Why would anyone think this world is dark?

The secret stuff, maybe—the heartbreaks or dangerous desires, the out-of-control fears or unrelenting desperation—but those are buried out of sight, and hey, everyone knows, out of sight, out of mind. So no, life is most definitely not dark.

Maybe there are dark spots, patches, like black ice, we need to navigate around or over, but the sun is shining around the next bend and the road will be dry up ahead. I just won’t think about where this road is taking me. I’m having too good a time driving in comfort and ease, with the radio cranked up so I don’t hear the horns honking or the sirens screaming or the tires squealing.

Dark? Not the world most people know, I’m guessing.

So who, then, is looking for the dawn?

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm  Comments (16)  
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Some Things You Don’t Get Used To

It’s been nine years now. Nine! But in many ways, it still seems like yesterday. I’m talking about the last time I saw my mother.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think, as I have any number of other times, that I should write a tribute to my mom. It would be fitting, and I’d like to honor her. But when I try, the words won’t come.

They wouldn’t come when I wanted to write something for her memorial service, and they haven’t come ever since. I suspect it might always be this way. Losing a parent isn’t something you get over. Ever.

I remember after my dad died, spending Mother’s Day weekend with my mom. It was hard because the last day I saw my dad alive was on a previous Mother’s Day. I felt his loss more keenly on that sad anniversary that should have been a happy celebration.

As I talked with my mom about it, she reminisced about losing her own father. She mentioned his birthday and stopped to think. He would be a hundred and twenty-four, she said and then we both laughed.

Death always feels premature, even when we know that we’re not going to live until we’re a hundred and twenty-four. And because it feels premature, it’s hard to get used to.

I suppose this year, nine years into life as an orphan, is particularly hard because I know a number of people who have lost their mothers recently. My “Glick” cousins when my dear Aunt Doris died last fall. (She I could write about. Go figure!) A former student of mine, whose mother died months after her father passed away from a sudden heart attack. And most recently, author Karen Hancock’s mother who died on Palm Sunday. As did my mother, nine years earlier.

I want to offer comfort and encouragement, I really do. But what keeps rushing to my mind is, You’ll never have another mother. Mother’s Day will never be the same. Christmas will never be the same. Your birthday, her birthday, and lots of other little days when you really want to celebrate or cry or laugh or talk things over. Just things. Nothing special.

The thing is, even though I never get used to Mom being gone, I do have comfort. And encouragement. It stems from a little verse tucked in Psalm 27:

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up.

I know, I know. Dying isn’t the same as “forsaking.” But it seems the principle is the same — God parents us when we need parenting.

And me, I always wanted to go the way of Peter Pan, so I figure I’ll always need parenting. 😉

Thanks be to God that He gives just what we each need when we need it. And for me at Mother’s Day, I need my loving Father’s reminder that He will not fail me or forsake me. I’ll never have to get use to getting along without Him.

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm  Comments (10)  
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Heaven And Hell And The Book By Rob Bell

Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived by Rob Bell the founding pastor of the Mars Hills Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has created a stir. Or should I say, the book’s promotional video has. Lines are being drawn, camps are being set up, all in the name of God. All we’re missing is bloodshed. People supporting Pastor Bell are sadly shaking their heads at the nay-sayers and vice versa.

One blogger at least, Rachel Held Evans, realizes that the issue is bigger than this particular controversy or the personalities involved. You see, people want to know about heaven … and to a lesser degree, about hell. I realized that again yesterday when I scanned the NY Times best-seller list and saw another “heaven” book ensconced in the top ten.

This should be no surprise. The Baby Boomers are growing old, and death has been known to follow aging. What comes after death? so many want to know.

Now, along comes Rob Bell’s book, with a subtitle that brings the questions to the surface and a promotion video slanted toward universalism, and we have a controversy over a topic virtually everyone wants to know about.

The thing that stands out most to me is what seems to be missing in Pastor Bell’s promotion. Here’s part of the transcript as provided by Kevin DeYoung in his post “Two Thoughts on the Rob Bell Brouhaha”

Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

The focus of his compassion seems to stem from the physical pain and suffering ascribed to hell, but the greatest loss is actually God. He is love and people going to hell will be separated from love. He is holy, and they will have no part in holiness. He is just and they will have nothing to do with justice.

Their torment will be self-inflicted to a degree, just as Scripture describes it.

Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?
They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
And condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
He has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The LORD our God will destroy them.
– Psalm 94:23 (emphasis mine)

Granted, this Psalm is referring to God’s intervention in this life, but I don’t see why He won’t work in a similar way in the judgment. Yes, He will punish. But in a place without His restraining hand, where wickedness is unchecked, how much worse will that punishment be?

I’m reminded of what Corrie ten Boom wrote about her imprisonment at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. The conditions were deplorable, but when her sister Betsy showed the love of Christ, she brought peace where chaos had reigned.

Hell will know no peace.

How can we accuse God of wrong doing when His absence alone would make a place hell? And who is it that suffers His absence? The wicked who reject Him.

Last point: how can anyone accuse Omniscience of getting it wrong that those He declares to be wicked, actually are?

Published in: on March 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (10)  
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The Wages Of Sin Is Death

If sin is a tough sell these days, imagine what the proclamation of its wages has become! I mean, western culture is still not fond of talking about death unless its in the context of a crime scene television program.

But everyone is thinking about it. That’s why books about heaven sell so well. People are wondering, What’s it like after death? And of course, the popular assumption is, heaven’s it, unless it’s nothing.

The only other question that might be more on our minds is, What’s it like when the world self-destructs? No one’s really sitting down to ask that question — except novelists who are writing end-times or dystopian fiction. But the people reading those books are lapping them up, because they want to know what somebody else thinks it might be like.

Thankfully we have the Bible and God hasn’t left us totally in the dark.

One thing we can know from Scripture is that there is physical death and there is spiritual death. A number of verses indicate that people separated from God by their sin are already dead. Here are a couple verses of the many:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart
– Eph. 4:17-18 (emphasis mine)

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace
– Rom. 8:6 (see the following verses also)

In brief, this is what I believe the Bible teaches about death. When sin entered the world, so did death — both physical and spiritual. This was the very consequence God warned Adam and Eve about.

Physical death is the incontrovertible consequence of rebellion against God, one that we, and the world, must all suffer — with the exception of Enoch and the believers who will be alive when Christ comes back. Spiritual death, at the least, is separation from God.

Christ doesn’t undo death. He does one step better. He offers new life. By shedding His blood, He washed away the sin that separated us from God. Consequently, believers have spiritual life here and now. In addition, He promised eternal life — a new, better body we can enjoy for eternity — and He Himself was resurrected from the dead, giving us a glimpse of what a resurrected body is like.

But new life is conditional, as are many of God’s promises. All through the Old Testament, God told His chosen people He would bless them if they obeyed Him. So too, in the New Testament, the promise of life is conditional.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
– John 3:16-18 (emphasis mine)

Apparently there’s some confusion regarding what it means to “believe in Jesus,” so I’ll address that another time.

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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When The Roll Is Called

In 1893 a pastor named James Black wrote a simple chorus entitled “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” prompted by the absence of a girl named Bessie who was too sick to attend one of the youth meetings. For those who may be unfamiliar with the words, now in the public domain, I’ve copied them here:

1. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more
And the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there!

2. On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise
And the glory of His resurrection share
When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there!

3. Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun,
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there!

When the roll, is called up yonder,
When the roll, is called up yonder,
When the roll, is called up yonder
When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!

Lyrics: James Milton Black
Music: James Milton Black

If you read the story behind the song, you learn that Pastor Black had a heart for the lost.

Sadly, there seems to be a growing belief today that there will be no “lost.” The ideas behind “universalism”—usually traced back to Origen of Alexandria (c.185-284), an influential early Church Father and writer who believed in the ultimate salvation and reconciliation with God of all moral beings, including Satan and his demons—seem to have gained more acceptance starting in the 1800s. Today it seems the majority of people, East or West, embrace some form of this view.

Some believe all religions are true (different rivers flowing into the same ocean) whereas some believe all are saved through Jesus Christ.

Chances are, if someone asks, “When the roll is called up yonder, will you be there?” the answer is most likely, “I hope so.”

The sad thing about this is that people who don’t know they’re lost have no particular interest in being found. And those who don’t believe anyone else is lost aren’t very concerned about mapping out the way back home.

For me there’s not a sadder scene in the Bible than Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, declaring that He would have gathered them to Him like a mother hen gathers her chicks, but they wouldn’t have it. They didn’t want to be gathered. They didn’t want to be found.

These are the people Paul was talking about when he said,

For many walk of whom I often told you and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
– Phil. 3:18-19

At the heart of the deception that all are going to heaven (whatever you believe that to be for you – 🙄 ), is the denial that God is a righteous, just, sovereign Judge; that He makes the rules and He determines the consequences and He metes out equitable rewards or punishments.

Why is it so hard to believe that the One in charge gets to do that?

Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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