The very mention of any of these words strikes fear into the hearts of most of Christians in the Bible belt. Churches are split by this debate over how God saves. Is man born inherently good, having the free will of his own to either choose God or deny him? Or are all men born into sin, totally depraved at birth and dead to the things of God until God chooses to save some by giving them a new heart? Man’s free will verses God’s chosen will.
The doctrine of mans right to choose or deny God was defended and taught first by a man named Jacob Arminius in the late 1500’s/early 1600’s. Those who believe God’s will is dependant on man’s free will are labeled Arminianist. John Calvin in the early to late 1500’s believed differently than Arminius. Calvin believed that man has no choice in the matter of salvation. That God alone did the choosing, because sinful man by nature is so depraved in his sins that without the drawing of the Holy Spirit, would never choose God for himself. Believers who lean more towards John Calvin’s view of salvation are generally called Calvinist. Both camps even have their own five point system to argue why their way of believing is right.
John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Let me start off by saying I do not consider myself a Calvinist or an Arminianist. Im a truth junkie. I believe every word of scripture is accurate and true. And I hunger to know God as well as the character of God more intimately. Let me also say that regarding these two lines of theology, I dont have all the answers. There are some things in scripture that even after much studying and prayer, I cannot seem to comprehend. But my lack of understanding doesnt in the least diminish from the truth found in scripture. The example I use with our college and youth is the relationship between a human and an ant. The ant may look at us and understand some things about humanity. But even the most basic concepts such as marriage, a job, how to drive a car, are far beyond the ants mental capability to grasp. In the same way, God is far superior to humanity. We can defend our theological camps all day but in the end, neither camp will ever understand how God saves fully, because we dont have Gods mental capacity.
1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
We dont know it all. And for us to even pretend that we have all the answers regarding how God operates is blasphemy. However we are given a glimpse of how God operates. And we can know Him in part just from scripture and paying attention to the language used in the Bible. I want to look at just a few of the arguments standing between the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism.
The biggest argument and red flag to many who consider Calvinism a heresy is the thought of God sending people to Hell. Would God really choose to save some of his creation while sending others to Hell? This is one of the biggest arguments people use to defend their free will. People will say in defense of Arminianism, “God would never send anyone to Hell without giving them a chance and free choice to turn from their sins!” The arminianist believe that when the Bible refers to God choosing people by predestination, that what is meant is that God chooses those whom he knows will choose him. But here are the problems I see with these arguments….
First, if God chooses those whom he knows will choose him, then God is really not the catalyst…man is. God is really not the one choosing, man is. If I am team captain in a game of Dodgeball, and I am choosing my team, I would never say something like this. “Ralph, I choose you to be on my team because I know that you choose me to be your captain. This would make no sense. I am the team captain, therefore I am the one who has total choice, not Ralph.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16.
“I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.”John 13:18.
And secondly, many consider the doctrine of Calvinism a heresy because they cannot fathom that a loving God would choose or elect some while allowing others to go to Hell. So they will claim God chooses those who God knew would choose him. But what they dont realize is that even in free will, they are running into the same problem. The question could then be asked, “Why would God create someone he knew would never choose him?” Think about that. In each case, it would seem that God is choosing to send part of his creation to Hell. Even in the case of free will.
So both parties must examine God as he is, not as they think or wish he was. Does God send people to Hell? As the apostle Paul would say, by no means!
Matthew 25:41, ““Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Hell was created as a prison for the devil and his angel, those who rebelled against God. People who do not follow Christ prove that they love sin more than God. I heard one pastor put it like this, “If a person cannot get excited and find joy in things of the Lord here on earth, then they will surly not be satisfied in Heaven. God doesnt send people to Hell. Those living apart from God are getting exactly what they wanted, separation from God. They dont want to live under Gods commands. Hell is free from the commandments of God. And they dont want God in their lives. In Hell, they will be eternally separated from His love. Heaven isnt a place for people who dont want to go to Hell, Heaven is a place for people who really love God!
Also, we must pay attention to the choice of words God uses to describe our relationship with him.
” For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”Romans 8:14-16.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6.
Do you see the common denominator in these two scriptures listed above? God describes us that are in Christ as his adopted children. If you decide to go and adopt a child, does that child have any say so in the matter? Of course not. You are the one making the choice. The adopted child is being saved in a sense from a life without a parent. The child did nothing to deserve your love and affection. The child would have nothing to boast in. The child could not say, “I choose them to be my parents.” Thats the definition of grace. Grace is receiving love when you did nothing to deserve it.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:8-10.
Look again at the verse above in Ephesians. We have been saved through the grace of God. There was nothing we did, such as making a choice, that we can boast in. God reached down and in love, saved us. If I can choose God, then I can boast in the fact that I accepted Jesus. As if Jesus is sitting up in Heaven with his fingers crossed hoping that we will choose him. Jesus doesnt need our acceptance. We need his grace. And that grace is described as a gift from God. Most normal people dont by gifts for themselves. A gift is given, and many times, undeserved by the receiving party. If you go out and choose something for yourself, it is not a gift, it is a purchase you decided to make. But we have nothing to purchase and cleanse our sins. You cant buy righteous blood. It has to be shed and given as a gift. Do you see the language used by God? Describing us as adopted children, and salvation as a gift, not as some we decided to do.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13.
All those who have received Christ and believed in him, he has given the right to become his children. The verse goes on to say that these children were not born of human decision, but born of God. Our sinful nature desperately wants to recieve some credit for our life change in Christ. We wrestle against this idea of God being in total control and recieving all credit for human salvation because its offensive to a selfish creature such as we are. Jesus said he choose us, we didnt choose him. God said that those in him are not justified by any decision they made at one point in life. This is done so that no one but God receives credit and glory for salvation.
It all boils down to one question you must ask yourself. Do you believe in the sovereignty of God? Do you believe that God is in total control of everything in the universe? Or are there some things that are beyond Gods control. For example, think about Jesus mother Mary. When the angel came to Mary and told her she would give birth to God in human form, do you think she could have chosen to say, “No thanks, I think Ill pass.” Of course not. God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus.
How about the Apostle Paul? The man persecuted and killed Christians. He had no love for Christ. But on the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Paul and told him to stop killing Christians and to proclaim the very Gospel he hated! God even called Paul his Chosen instrument. Do you think Paul could have just gone, “Nah, Im going to keep killing Christians no matter what you say.” God chose Paul! He didnt have a choice. If you love Jesus and are a follower of Christ, think back to that moment where Jesus became so real to you and you repented of your sins and began to love God. Think back….in that moment….could you have denied Jesus? I can remember that moment, and there was nothing in me that could have turned from him. In fact, even now, when I think back to my life without Jesus it turns my stomach to think about life without him. I had no choice in the matter. Jesus gave me an undeserved gift of grace.
In the book of Exodus, Pharaoh had enslaved Gods people. He was the most powerful ruler at the time on earth. Yet God allowed him to come to that power.
“But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses.”Exodus 9:12.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God allowed him to have extreme power on earth. And then he crushed Pharaoh and his army showing that regardless of power, no man can ever match God. This was done to show the glory of God to man.
“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”Acts 16:14.
In the same way God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God chose to open Lydia’s heart. You see, God does the opening, and God chooses who will be hardened, and whom he will extend his mercy and grace.
“For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15.
“So then he has mercy on whom ever he wills, and he hardens whom ever he wills.” Romans 9:18.
God is in total control of everything. And no matter where we look in the Bible, we see Gods sovereign choice and election.
Remember the story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau in Genesis. God made the statement, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” What did God mean by this. Why did he hate one and love the other? Paul explains this to us in Romans.
“…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
God was putting his divine election on display. The twins at birth had done nothing good or bad. God made his choice so that his divine election and his plan, that we only see in part, might carry on.
So Calvinist believe in the sovereignty of God. That God is in total control and what will be is what will be because God has control. Some will take this to an extreme level. Some Calvinist will say, “Since God is sovereign, what is the point of mission?” But that is an unbiblical mindset. Jesus repeatedly extends the opportunity for us as his children to participate in his plan. Jesus commands us to go to all parts of the world preaching the gospel. Its a privilege bestowed to his followers. The greatest gift I can give my sons right now besides knowing Christ is for them to feel like they are just like me. Sons look up to their fathers, and at some level, want to be like them. My six year old Andy gets the biggest smile on his face when Lacy says of something he does, “You are just like your daddy.” God gives us the privilege of working with our Heavenly father.
Charles Spurgeon once said if we could lift a persons shirt us and there be a mark indicating that they were Gods chosen, then that would make witnessing alot easier. We could just witness to some. But there is no such mark. Therefore, we are to go to all people and declare the glory of God.
There are plenty of verses in the Bible that speak of God desiring for ALL men to be saved. And I absolutely believe that to be true. How that works into his soverign will and his divine election is beyond my understanding. To pretend that I did have all the mysteries of God figured out would be no different than an ant claiming the knowledge of human.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”Deuteronomy 29:29.
Im not God. Im was not created to understand everything this side of Heaven. Some things are considered the secret things of God. Maybe because they are irrelevant to Christ’s command for us to go and make disciples. Sort of like a small child asking his parents, “why…” over and over. Eventually, the parent would say, “Dont worry about why, just do what I told you.” Some things we as parents know our children will not understand and grasp. And it really doesnt matter that they understand, just that they are obediant. Because our commands for our kids are for their own good.
There are some things God never intended for man to figure out. Some questions are left unanswered. And Im ok with that. Many verses speak on Gods desire for all to be saved. And that is true. But in no way do these verses take away from the numerous others that clearly state that God is soverign over all things, including salvation. How it all plays out is one of the secret things of the Lord. I do believe that the choice is entirely up to God. And I believe I have been commissioned to go to ALL men and preach his gospel, so I may be a chosen tool, as was said of the apostle Paul, to open the hearts of many. Im not a Calvinist. But I will not try to twist and argue with scripture so that it fits what I am comfortable believing in. Man made theology doesnt define me. Christ does. And at the end of the day, its not important how God saves. The only thing that matters is that God does save. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is of First Importance. Amen.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, “
1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
I can actually remember playing T-ball when I was a kid. I remember the feeling more than anything else.The feelings of excitement, anticipation, and finally disappointment. Let me explain. When my parents had first mentioned playing baseball, I was so excited. I had seen baseball on television. The athletic ability of the players and how they seemed to hit the ball with ease as it then glided through the air. I was in awe of how fast the pitcher could throw the ball, and how swift the outfielders were at catching most any ball the came to their area of the field. They always handled themselves in such a professional manner in winning and losing. And now my parents said I had the chance to play this very same game that these supermen I idolized did every week. My parents didnt have to ask twice, I was all in!
The first day of practice finally arrived. Stepping onto that baseball diamond for the first time sent sparks of electricity through my lanky preadolescent body. I was one of the big boys. A real baseball player. Everything looked perfectly fit to scale as it was on television. The field, the shape of the bases. but something odd caught my eye. Right where the batter stands to hit the ball, there was this goofy looking black pole thingy with a ball sitting on top. I then looked around at my teammates who were arriving. Some were picking their noses, some were rolling in the grass not paying attention to the coach, and some were crying for their parents. Crying? As Tom Hanks once said, “Theres no crying in baseball!” This made no sense. Where were the kids that were big boys and wanted to act like real baseball players? And I still didnt know what the goofy pole in the batters box was suppose to be! Coach finally explained that the pole was our tee which we would be hitting our ball off of.
I immediately thought, “No pitching?” This was not the picture I had in mind when mom and dad had ask if I wanted to play baseball. My teammates were not athletes, (and neither was I) they were more like the Romper Room Gang. I wasnt going to be pitched to, I had to hit the ball of off a rubber stick, and half the team was in tears fifteen minutes into the first practice! Add to this disappointment the fact that I couldnt catch a ball to save my life and I hit the goofy rubber pole with my bat more than I hit the ball sitting on top! I thought this was suppose to be easy. The guys on tv made it look easy! This was hard work and not what I had expected. I had this picture of athletic perfection in my mind that was shattered by an all around lack of athletic ability and a rubber stick called a tee. I wanted to just quit. But thankfully, my parents taught me perseverance and finished the season. And I played a few years of t ball leading into little league baseball, because I realized that you didnt start out being just like the pros, rather you had to grow into that mold through constant practice.
Isnt it odd that the simplest life lessons that make perfect sense to even a child, we become blind to in our adult years and end up acting like a seven year old who wants to quit tee ball because of unreasonable, impossible expectations were not met. I can’t tell you how many people Ive run into that will turn there noses up at the notion of Christianity. They mock it and make snide remakes. And the most prevalent criticism made towards the bride of Christ is this…..
“I dont believe in Christianity because they preach one thing and do another….they’re all a bunch of hypocrites!”
This is in part the churches fault. Not because we should all be perfect, but because at times, we as Christians expect others to be. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. This would be akin to me walking onto the tee ball field as a seven year old and all the other snotty nosed, teary eyed kids looking down on me because I wasnt like Babe Ruth.
And this is partly a faulty expectation on the worlds part. Flipping the example, for the world to expect Christians to be perfect is just like me at seven telling these other kids they need to shape up and start knocking home runs out of the park. We are called as Christians to strive to be like Jesus, but we dont just automatically become like him by walking into a church. Thats what sanctification is all about. Growing in holiness. And this can be a bit frustrating and problematic, because no matter how hard we try, we’ll never meet the standards of Christ this side of Heaven. If we go into the Christian experience with expectations of everyone having it all together, and everything working in perfect harmony, we will be quickly disillusioned. We’re all a bunch of snotty nosed children, whining about things not going our way, just like on the tee ball field. Is the church full of hypocrites? Absolutely. And regrettably, Im one of them. But if we didnt have a fallen nature, then we’d have no need of a risen savior.
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:22-23.
This post is written more so to someone who is searching. Maybe you’ve been burned by a church. Maybe you’ve been disappointed and let down due to unrealistic expectations. Hear me when I say this in love. If this describes your experience, you will continue to jump from church to church and continue to be disappointed over and over, until you can come to the realization that church….is not about you. People, no matter how much they study their Bibles, will always let you down. People will always disappoint you. And people will always shatter your dreams of perfection. Because we are not perfect. And when we have the mindset that the world is about us, a catastrophic chain of events can transpire in our lives.
If we marry, eventually we will be let down by our spouse. And if its all about us, we seek to get out of that relationship in search of the perfect mate…..that does not exist. And so we end up carving out a resume of broken relationships and hold on to much heartache. If we look for the perfect job, and its all about us, we will be disappointed and unfulfilled in our career. And if church is about how people within the body of Christ measure up to your standards, there is not a church on this earth that will ever satisfy you. The first thing to realize in this life is that nothing is about you. Nothing is about me. Its all about King Jesus. Everything.
There is an every bigger misconception amongst many professing Christians that is the basis for the warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:21. That is the question of, “Why do you think you are going to Heaven?” I never realized until recently how many people actually think that they are saved by the blood of the Lamb because they go to church and because, according to them, they are “good people.” The good people argument is used so much. “Im a good person, so why would God send me to Hell?” Thats the defense. Here is my question to those that would hang their salvation on being good……..
What is your standard for judging your goodness by?
Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
So not only does our sinful nature not measure up to Gods standards, but even my best good deeds are tainted and unacceptable to God without the sacrifice of Christ and knowing him personally in my life as my intercessor.
Someone may say, “Well Im faithful to my spouse and have never committed adultery!”
But Jesus said, ” “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28.
Some may say, “Well Ive never committed murder!”
But Jesus said, ““You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Matthew 5:21-22.
Have you ever called someone a fool? Ive called people much worse. And according to God, that infraction of the tounge is just as damnable as committing murder.
Have you ever told a lie? Even an innocent little while lie?
Jesus said, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.
Yesterday I wrote a blog regarding movies and how we should have discernment in what we entertain ourselves with. Whenever I bring up the topic of censoring what we watch for the sake of Christ, I get emails about how people think I am taking things too far. The response I typically get is…”Im a Christian and watching a movie doesnt mean I dont know God!”
No, watching a movie doesnt mean a person does not know God. But I believe if we truly know that nature of God, then there are some movies and entertainment that is blatantly obvious that God would not approve of, and in knowing God, we should be offended by. Take two movies that are very, very popular in the worlds eyes. Harry Potter and The Twilight series. These two movie franchises are all the rave in our world today. And Ive been told that these movies are just innocent entertainment and that God doesnt mind us watching them.
“‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or seek omens.” Leviticus 19:26.
Gods word says dont consume blood, and dont practice divination, or witchcraft. Twilight is all about a blood lusting vampire, and Harry Potter is about a kid who is into witchcraft. This verse sort of kills two birds with one stone. I could list many more verses from the old and new testament that echo this one verse, but this post would turn into a book.
“He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”Luke 16:15.
People today value entertainment very highly. Especially when it comes to movies and television. And right now, these witch and vampire movies are valued very highly. But look at what Jesus says about some things that man hold high in value….they are detestable in God’s sight.
“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” Psalm 101:3.
When I was a kid, I remember meeting Lou Ferrigno, who was (and still is) a bodybuilder who played the Incredible Hulk on television.I watched him on television every week. I knew all about him. I knew where he grew up, I had read about his home life, I knew when he began his bodybuilding career, and I knew how he eventually landed the role as The Incredible Hulk. Any statistic on Lou I could give you. But if you walked up to Lou and asked him if he knew me, he wouldnt have a clue who I was.
And I think there are many Christians who’s faith in Christ is just like this. They know statistics and facts about Jesus. They may be able to spout off a few Bible verses and hymns. They even go to church every Sunday. But they dont really know Jesus in a personal relationship, they just know about him. There is a difference between knowing Christ, and Christ knowing you intimately.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21.
Many people claim they are going to Heaven and that they know Jesus. Yet the choices they deliberately make (Hebrews 10:26) in life show very little regard for Christ. Many claim they love Jesus. What drives me absolutely crazy is country music. If you really listen to country music, its a theological train wreck. Country artist mention Jesus and loving Jesus in countless songs. But in the very next line of the song talk about passing a round of whiskey or cheating on a girlfriend. Really? A song is sung about how much you love Jesus, but then in the same song, sing about deliberately choosing to sin against God? Case in point, if we live in a nation that really knows God as we claim, then why do we keep making the same sinful lifestyle choices over and over. Because that is not the teachings of the God of the Bible.
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” 1 John 5:3.
Loving God is not defined as being a good faithful church member or reading your bible daily. According to God, love for him is shown through obedience to his word. So how can we discern what entertainment is of Satan in our world without knowing His word? How can we see the contradiction in popular songs today unless we know his word? How can we live our lives as pleasing to God without knowing his word? The Lord says in Psalm to seek Him with all your heart. I recall playing hide and go seek as a kid, and we would keep seeking those hiding all night if we had to in order to win. Seeking God isnt church attendance. Its a personal, daily chase and hunger to know him. To not just read his word, but to saturate in it. Its a hunger not just to memorize scripture, but to understand and apply His commands to our lives. And notice the scripture above when it says, “his commands are not burdensome.” Are you burdened by attempting to follow Gods commands? Or do you actually see them as Gods way of leading you into fullness of ultimate Joy?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.
Jesus is saying, “Look, you are walking and breathing but you’re not alive!” In Christ, we find life!! Why would we ever want to be consumed with the fading trinkets and lures of this world that is perishing! All that are breathing have life. But only those in Christ have life more abundant and life to the full! Its in his commands we find true life and joy!
God doesnt make rules in marriage, finances, relationships, and worship to make us miserable! God designed marriage! He designed relationships, he designed every area of life! And he knows that if His commands are obeyed, they will all result in a life of joy! He knows your make up better than you do. If you actually think a sinful way of life will render better results for your life than following Christ, you prove that you dont know him.
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”John 14:23.
Sadly, many will continue to live a shallow Christianity, which is really not Christianity, where they say they love Jesus, but live life on their own terms. They still watch the same sinful entertainment and still condone the same sinful lifestyle, all the while claiming forgiveness to live like the devil because they love a forgiving God. Yes God is forgiving. But if you really love him…if you really know him…you dont take advantage of his grace as a ticket to sin. Those are the people Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:21.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46.
Even Jesus questions people like this. How much more clear could he have said it? If someone is not willing to live in obedience to Christ, and would rather find loop holes around following him, then why would they continue to claim him as Lord of their lives? He is not the Lord of their lives, they are the Lord of their lives! Jesus isnt a country song side kick to us as we drive through life with him in the passenger seat. When we give our lives to Christ, he’s to have it all! Nothing held back, every area of our lives in full and total submission to Christ!
My question is do you know Christ, or do you just know some things about him? Have all areas of your life been given over to his Lordship, or do you pick and choose according to what you want to do? Do you tend to blend in and chase after what is more popular in the worlds eyes, or do you live more like an alien to this world who’s not home yet? My hope for myself and every one who may stumble upon my many ramblings is that we would be all convicted to take God as seriously as the men and women of scripture. That we would not judge our salvation by a level of worldly goodness, but by being known by Christ. And that we all would live radically and sacrificially, putting worldly popularity behind in exchange for being mission minded. Its all about the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Its all about the glorification of God in and through all things. Its not about our wants and desires. Its not about me. Its all about King Jesus.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; …” Psalm 121:1.
I want you to think of someone in your life that you love with all of your heart. Maybe its a family member such as a parent, sibling, child. or even a spouse. Lets use the example of a father. Now imagine the unthinkable…that some deranged person took the life of your father in a brutal way. You are devastated. As you grieve, you brother comes over to you and shares in your mourning. But something disturbing catches your eye. As your brother sits beside you crying and angry for what was done to your dad, you notice his t-shirt. It has a picture of the man who murdered your father on the front with a caption that says, “I Support This Man.”
Horrified, you ask your brother just what in the world he thinks he is doing wearing something like that! Your brother, almost offended, looks back at you and says, “Are you implying that I dont love daddy? This shirt has nothing to do with my love for dad….its only a T-shirt!”
In the same manner, we claim to love God with all of our hearts. Yet many Christians support the very things that put Jesus on the cross.
This example is leading into an area of my life that I was really convicted of about three years ago. I claimed to love Jesus and be a devout follower. I read my bible, went to church on Sundays, and even prayed during the week. I didnt deliberately live in sin, and I even taught a Sunday School class. But I loved movies. We had a huge movie DVD library. My favorites were action films like Rambo and especially horror movies. I couldnt get enough of them. My wife Lacy didnt get into the horror movies as much as she did soap opera’s and reality shows like The Batchelor.
But ever so subtlety, God began to work on our heart. Convicting us, changing us, transforming our thinking.
1 Corinthians 6:9 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
These are the sins that Jesus had to die for in order that we might be redeemed. Does this verse mean that if we have ever fallen into one of these sins we can no longer be forgiven? By no means. For the Bible specifically tells us that we all fall short of Gods glory. Those who will suffer separation from God as a result of these sins are those who partake in the deliberately as a practice of life yet at the same time, they know better.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”Hebrews 10:26.
“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.
Although I wasnt deliberately walking in sin or making a practice of sinning, I realized I was enjoying entertainment that seemed to promote these very sins that God seems to hate so much. I remember watching the tv series Friends. And all the sudden it hit me that the whole show was about a group of friends who found enjoyment in breaking Gods laws. The show portrayed sex outside of marriage, drunkenness, and issues like pornography and made these sins against God into very comical situations. I was laughing at the very sins the God destroyed nations for in the Old Testament!
But its only a television show….right?
Then God began to convict me in the area of movies. I loved Rambo! What guy doesnt love movies where stuff gets blown up! But I began to see in these movies that the Lords name was used in vain an awful lot. I never used these word! And I would never use them. But here I was, finding enjoyment, not being offended, when one of the characters of the movie used Gods name in vain. The same went for the horror movies I loved. Some promoted demonism, witch craft, occult magic. Movies like The Ring, The Grudge, and even the ever popular Twilight series. I would never participate in witch craft. Yet here I was being entertained by the kingdom of darkness that Christ spoke against!
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” Colossians 1:13.
But its only a movie….right?
The music I was listening too was not safe from our convictions either. Most popular music today have very profane lyrics. The artist sing about sex before marriage, adultery, drinking, drug use, and profaning the Lord. Again, I would never partake in any of these sins, but I didnt mind listening to someone else sing praises about them, and do so with a tap in my foot and a smile on my face. The same can be said for books as well. Harry Potter, Twilight, and a few other popular books have captivated reads young and old. In fact, they read these books about witchcraft and the occult more than they do their own Bibles.
But its only a song….right?
And its only a book….right?
I once heard a pastor say, “Take away a mans idol and he’ll fight and defend it will all his might.” Isnt it funny how we will make excuses and defend our right as Christians to partake in worldly entertainment, yet we dont blink an eye when the Lord we profess to love is blasphemed?
Instead, we laugh at the very sins that caused solders beat him, rip the hair from his beard, whip the skin from his back, place thorns in his brow, and nail his hands and feet to the cross. The most brutal death in history was that of the Lord Jesus. It wasnt Pilate that nailed him to the cross. It wasnt Jesus many critics. It was my sins, and the sins of humanity that took his earthly life. Jesus died in our place, for our sins…a perfect sacrifice in every way. Innocent, spotless, blameless, and in the end, guilty. But not for what he had done, but for what we have done. Everytime we seek out entertainment in shows or music that promote things like witchcraft, fornication, sexual immorality, blasphemy, and adultery, we take a front seat to the reenactment of Jesus crucifixion, and laugh at the very sins that Jesus took seriously enough to die for.
Satan still preaches sermons even today. Except his pulpit is not in a particular church. The devil’s pulpit is popular media. Satan preaches through the airwaves. He preaches sermons on how cool witchcraft and the occult is through movies like Harry Potter and Twilight. He preaches sermons on the merits of homosexuality through television shows. He preaches messages on all the things that Christ died for and in support of them through pop culture and media. And he continues to soothe our conscious by reassuring us….”Its only harmless entertainment, just relax and watch!” Isnt that the same line he used in the garden on Eve? “Its only a piece of fruit, just take a bite?”
Will watching a secular movie send you to Hell? No. And not all secular media is bad. But I do believe that a true follower of Christ will grow in sanctification. I believe that we will be continually convicted of things in our world, and therefore given a chance to repent and grow more into His image. I believe it is very possible for someone to be a Christian, love secular tv and movies, and not really be aware of the fact that they are actually entertaining themselves with the sins that Jesus died for. Thats how deceptive Satan is. But once we realize that our world hates Christ, we begin to read between the lines. Then suddenly, a sick feeling begins to grow in us when we watch a show where Gods name is cursed. Because all of the sudden, its not just a movie anymore. You see the entertainment industry making light of the sacrifice Jesus paid. You see your Lord being mocked by the media. And what was once considered recreational and innocent becomes very personal.
Its hard to laugh at the very things that murdered our savior.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
The verse didnt say do some things for God’s glory. It didnt say do all things for the glory of God except for entertainment. The text reads ALL THING are to be done with Gods glory in mind. The old “WWJD What Would Jesus Do” Bracelets come to mind. Although they could be a bit goofy, the idea behind the bracelets was great. Would Jesus be entertained by reading, watching, or listening to the sins he gave his life to cover? Do people know we are followers of Christ not only by the things we do, but by what we dont do? If we look like the world, smell like the world, and love the same evil things of this world, is the love of Christ truly in us? Whats that old saying….”If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are….IT’S A DUCK!”
We as believers know the difference between right and wrong. We know Gods commandments. And sometimes we pride ourselves on not committing these acts. But the Bible tells us not only is it wrong to commit these acts, but it is wrong to take pleasure or find entertainment in those who do these acts! This post may have stepped on some toes, just as mine we stepped on three years ago. But I profess nothing that is of my own opinion. As Charles Spurgeon once said, ““The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” I need not defend this view point….God through scripture speaks for Himself……
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Who KNOWING the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, BUT HAVE PLEASURE IN THEM THAT DO THEM.” Romans 1:28-32.
Misunderstandings and disillusions of who Jesus really is in our society is the ultimate reason for people living out a false Christianity. As a whole, we know what we’ve seen from television preachers and from the basic Bible stories we’ve grown up hearing. Who hasn’t been taught the timeless stories of David and Goliath or Daniel and the lion’s den? Who hasn’t had the Sunday School teacher that with good intentions, told the children how these stories were given as examples to us by God to show us how we can overcome adversaries in our lives? I can recall being at a youth camp once and hearing the teacher tell us kids, “David overcame the giant Goliath and did the impossible by killing him because he had God on his side.”
It sounds great! And there is a bit of truth to what he said, because we know that in Christ, we can do mighty things. But here’s the problem in teaching Bible stories in this manner….its misinterpreting scripture to mean something it doesn’t mean. The assumption that many teachers take is that we are these great men of the Bible, like David or Daniel. And things like Goliath or the Lions represent obstacles in our lives that we triumphantly overcome. But in looking at scripture in the way, we insert ourselves as the heroes of these stories, when in reality, we are the ones who need saving.
You and I are not David slaying the giant Goliath. And Goliath doesn’t represent the troubles in your life. If we were to insert ourselves into the story of David and Goliath, we would be the frightened Israelites, watching this battle, huddled together and crying in the corner saying, “We’re all going to die!!” Jesus represents David and Goliath represents sin and death. And the same can be said for any story in scripture. Jesus is the greater David. Jesus is the greater Abraham. Jesus is the greater Esther. Jesus is the greater Boaz. Jesus is the greater Moses. Thats the main point that was made in the book of Hebrews. You and I are not the heroes of scripture, Jesus is.
At times we have the bad habit of viewing ourselves as heroes and God is just our cheerleader in life. Its this weird viewpoint that God created us so that he wouldn’t be lonely in the universe and that God is ultimately about us! But the deception in thinking this way is that we believe that we are entitled to a good life of ease because God should want to spoil his children. Therefore, when something bad happens in our lives, we cannot understand why God would allow such a thing.
Here is the truth. And for some, it’s going to sting and shake everything they may have been taught to the core. God loves you. God is for you. God wants your joy. But ultimately, God is not first and foremost about you. Gods main priority is God. For some, this doesn’t rest well with you. But the fact that this bothers us exposes just how very self-centered we really are in our nature. That we actually feel like we should be the center of Gods universe. Some may ever rail against this idea. But scripture will back me up…..here is a list compiled by Dr. John Piper and Matt Chandler.
God created us for His glory (Isaiah 43:6-7).
I want you to think about this. The reason you exist, the reason you are is for the glory of God, the name and renown of God. The praising of His infinite perfections, that’s why you exist. Church is not primarily about fellowship. God was not lonely and decided to make you because He was just tired of being alone after eternity of being alone. God was perfectly content within the Godhead. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit did not need to create you. He did create you for the praise of His glorious grace. That’s why you exist. It’s the reason you’re alive.
God calls Israel for His glory (Isaiah 49:3).
God rescues Israel from Egypt for His glory (Psalm 106:7-8).
God defeats Pharaoh by the Red Sea to show His glory (Exodus 14:4; 17-18).
I have never ceased to be comforted by the fact that God never just outright destroys the nation of Israel. They get it right for a couple verses in the Old Testament. Right behind almost every verse of commendation is, “All right. You want t go that way? We’ll go that way.” And so God never destroys them or completely annihilates the nation of Israel, and He does it for the sake of His name.
•God gave Israel the Promised Land for the glory of His name (2 Samuel 7:23).
•God did not cast away His people for the glory of His name (1 Samuel 12:20-22).
•God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of His name (2 Kings 19:34; 20:6).
•God restored Israel from exile for the glory of His name (Ezekiel 36:22-23; 32).
•Now Jesus shows up an fits right into this rhythm. Jesus sought the glory of His Father in all that He did (John 7:18).
•Jesus told us to do good works so that God would get glory (Matthew 5:16 & 1 Peter 2:12).
•Jesus warned that failure to seek God’s glory makes faith impossible (John 5:44).
Now I want to stop and push on that a little bit. Because here’s what I know about some of you that you might not know about yourself yet. Some of you are here because you believe that, with certain actions and certain behaviors, you can put God into your debt. You believe that you can live in such a way that God will owe you. And when you don’t get what you feel like you’re owed, you’ll get frustrated and angry that God has not given you what He never promised to give you. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not that everything starts working out your way; the good news of the gospel is that God is enough, regardless of your circumstances. You get Jesus – that’s the gospel. That’s the good news. Not that you get an easy life, but that you get Jesus Christ….and He is enough!
•Jesus said that He answers prayers so that God would be glorified (John 14:13).
•Jesus endured His final hours of suffering for the glory of God (John 12:27-28).
•God gave His Son to vindicate the glory of His righteousness (John 17:1; 13:31- 32).
•God forgives our sin for His own sake (Isaiah 43:25 & Psalm 25:11).
•Jesus receives us into His fellowship for the glory of God (Romans 15:7). • The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God (John 16:14).
•God instructs us to do everything for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). .”
•God tells us to serve in a way that would glorify Him (1 Peter 4:11).
•Jesus is coming again for the glory of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
•Jesus’ ultimate aim for us is to see and enjoy His glory (John 17:24).
•God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory (Habakkuk 2:14). If you’ve always been confused why people would risk their lives to go all over the world, it’s because we believe with everything in us that when God says, “I shall,” He means it, that God cannot fail. So if we go herald the good news to parts of the world where there is no visible presence of His glory, it’s because we have the promise that, by our death or by our proclamation of His Word, His glory will be established.
•Everything that happens will redound to the glory of God (Romans 11:36).
•In the new Jerusalem, the glory of God replaces the sun. (Revelation 21:23).
So the point of the Bible is God; it’s not you. Its not me. God is about God. God is for God. And thats a great thing. Because if God is for God and about his Glory, that means I am not the center of the universe!!
Why do we get angry in traffic when someone cuts us off…..because we think we are the center of the universe.
Why do we lash out at our spouse when our expectations are not met…because we think we are the center of the universe.
Why do we doubt God when hard times befall us…because we think we are the center of the universe!
When we think we are the center of the universe, we are easily offended and constantly disappointed. But in Christ, we are free to see that the universe doesnt revolve around us. If Im not the center of the universe and someone cuts me off in traffic, I dont lash out at them because they offended me, but realize that their offensive had nothing to do with me, but that they are just being human and probably in a hurry.
If Im not the center of the universe, when my wife disappoints me, instead of holding a grudge against her, I see how my sinfulness has offended Christ over and over. Yet he never cast me aside, but continues to love me. And I live out that example with my wife, not so that I will be glorified in what a good husband I am, but so that God receives all the glory. Because no man is good, not one. (Mark 10:18.) Im merely shadowing the example given to me by my Father in Heaven. Its Christ working and redeeming through me. He receives the glory from the example we live out.
And when I realize that I am not the center of the universe, when hard times fall, I see it as a time of God sanctifying and using the situation to magnify his glory through my circumstances. The disciples and the apostle Paul were beaten to the point of death many times. Yet not once did they curse God. Rather they praised his glorious name for the opportunity given to suffer for his namesake!! If we could only reach that point in our lives where Christ is that supreme in our lives! Ultimate joy is found in glorifying Christ in every aspect of our lives! It amazes me how we can read of these men in the scriptures who suffered greatly for Christ and even look at Jesus himself who suffered greatly, and still have people who actually think Jesus should give them health and wealth because they go to church! Thats not the gospel!!
If Im not the center of the universe, Im free to love my family and friends at a deeper level because my selfish ways dont hinder me! I am not the hero of my story. Jesus Christ is. And Jesus is glorified through my obedience to him in every aspect of my life. And living in obedience to his commands improves my marriage, my family, my friendships, and how I respond to trials in life. In short, Christ being glorified and God being first and foremost about his glory produces an overwhelming joy in my life. His word wasnt given to harm or restrict me, but to lead me in the fullness of His joy. As John Piper wrote in his book “Desiring God”……
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!!”
There are some things that you just dont mix together. Oil and water, fire and ice, or an alarm clock and Saturday morning. One of the biggest of these taboos in our culture is religion and politics. You could even take it a step farther in some social realms. Some actually believe that religion should never be talked about at all for fear of offending someone or pushing moral beliefs. What is absolutely disgusting to me is that some professing Christians actually abide by this belief that we should keep our Bible beliefs to ourselves so no one will be offended. Isnt it ironic that if we profess to follow Jesus, we are actually claiming to follow a man who offended almost everybody. In fact, thats why the religious leaders finally nailed him to a cross.
What if the apostle Paul and Peter would have kept their faith a secret for fear of offending someone? What if they believed in the teachings of Christ, but never took a stand because it wasnt the popular thing to do? Well, Paul probably wouldnt have had his head chopped off, and Peter wouldnt have been crucified upside down. They could have lived a long life and been loved by the world if they would have just kept their faith in Christ to themselves. But isnt the point of following someone, as Christians claim to follow Christ, to do as their leader does?
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33.
What a scary statement made by our Lord Jesus! Yet so many church going people deny their affiliation with Christ to the world daily. Not by what they say, but by what they dont say!
Jesus goes on to say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Matthew 10:34.
I have actually heard faithful church members before say something like this……
“Well, I know they are living a sinful lifestyle, but we dont need to say anything to them, because we might run them off from ever coming to church!”
As Pastor Jonny Hunt once said, “Where do you think your going to run them off, Hell number two??”
We live in a Christian culture that is so afraid of confrontation and being offensive! We live in a world that has this false impression that Jesus just wants everyone to get along and be happy! But as you can see in Matthew 10:34 above, thats not Jesus at all!! Jesus clearly said he didnt come to this earth with expectations of everyone getting along. In fact, He knew that when he came to earth, there would be division amongst friends and even family because the message of the Gospel is very offensive to the lost world!! Jesus knew this! He taught his disciples to follow his example of being bold and taking a stand, regardless of if their next door neighbor thought they were weird, regardless if their family hated them, and regardless of if it caused someone to leave the church. Let me tell you something, if someone leaves a church because the Gospel of Jesus Christ offended them, then they never knew Him to begin with.
If you are a Christian, you are to live for God’s approval, not the approval of humans. Proverbs says …..
“…rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?’” (Proverbs 24.11-12)
We have a responsiblity as followers of Christ to take a bold stand in this world. We have a Christian obligation to defend the rights of the unborn whether or not anyone approves of it. We are obligated to hold fast to the defending the Biblical definition of marriage as God intended. We have a judge to face when we don’t. He will definitely know we did not defend those rights.
The Bible says all government is ordained by God. We must obey and stay out of politics. Many Christians wring their hands about causes and are standing on the abortion sidelines with a private morality. Many of them believe Romans 13 says we cannot protest the government because it is ordained and sanctioned by God. Yes we are to be submissive to government, meaning we dont stage riots and plan violent overthrows of those in power. But again, we do have the responsiblity before God to be outspoken when Government begins to stray from the commands of God. Romans 13 must be compared with Revelation 13. In this case the apostle John calls the Roman government, which is persecuting the righteous, the beast. The government there is not ordained by God. It is anti-Christ.
President Obama has established the single most unGodly political agenda’s in our nations history. Some have referred to his campaign for office as the Romans 1 Platform. Read the excerpt below from Romans Chapter one.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 andexchanged the glory ofthe immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:18-32.
Sounds frightenly like our nation. The truth of God is all around. We have no shortage of Bibles in our country. Gods word is abundant. The truth is there. But it has been so twisted and perverted to represent more of a Satanic agenda rather than “One Nation Under God.” The question we must ask is, “Who is this God?” Because he sure isnt the one mentioned in scripture.
And if you notice in the passage above in Romans, God gives them up to their depraved minds and sinful lusts. He basically says, “You want all this wickedness and sin? Take it, because my wrath now abides on you.” The Bible describes two types of wrath. The active wrath of God which is where God actively destroys those in opposition to him. And then there is the passive wrath, which is exactly what is being described in Romans 1. Have you ever asked yourself why someone who is very wicked and Godless seems to have such a great life? Passive wrath of God.
In his passive wrath, he gives the sinner up to himself. Its like this example from my youth. I remember my uncle one time had warned me not eat some soup he had made which had just come straight from the stove. He said, “Wait for a while, because its too hot right now.” I was starving, and I told him I could handle it. To which he responded, “Have at it then.” Needless to say I scalded my tastebuds and screamed like a baby because I didnt heed the warning of my uncle. He warned me, but I informed him that I didnt want to obey, so he allowed me to reap the consequences of my own actions. Passive wrath. Except Gods passive wrath isnt just a momentary scalding of the tounge, it results in eternal separation from God, and its staggering how many people are currently under this type of wrath.
We have a responsibility to vote against abortion and to inform others to do so as well. And I believe that abortion under no circumstance is acceptable. Rape and incest are horrible, atrocious acts of immorality and cause such great pain. But if these acts result in pregnancy, it is not the fault of the little child in the womans womb. Pastor Voddie Baucham has adopted children, one of which was the result of a rape and the other was born out of incest. Dr. Baucham stated that when people take a stance on abortion with the exception of rape and incest, what they are saying is that his two beautiful adopted children didnt deserve to live.
If you truly believe in Christ, then you believe in the sovereignty of God. That is, God is in total control at all times and in all situations. Jesus said to Pilate who was the Roman ruler who gave him over to be crucified, “You have no authority except that which has been given to you.” Pilate crucified Christ. As a result of Pilates decision, Christ was beaten, had the flesh torn off his back, and was nailed to a cross to die. What a sad time for all of those that loved Jesus. What a horrible event to have their Lord killed in such a brutal manner. But God allowed this to happen. Why? Because out of the sinful acts of the religious leaders in killing Jesus, something beautiful was born out of the horror. Our transgressions were dissolved, and Jesus defeated Satan, sin, and death through the sheding of his blood as our atonement.
God doesnt cause sin. But he does allow it at times. He gives those who are depraved and lost up to his passive wrath. And there are consequences. But for those who have faith in Christ, God takes that which was devastating and makes it into something new and beautiful. Such is the case with human life. No life is an accident. All life is beautiful.
The same can be said of homosexual relations. No matter what argument is made in favor of homosexuality, it is an abomination before God. No one was simply born that way, yet our world accepts this excuse as if its just normal. If I were to go on a killing spree and then use the excuse that I couldnt help it, that I was just born with this impulse to kill, I seriously doubt that I would be let off the hook. No one is born a murder. People do however, give in to temptations instead of seeking refuge in Christ. People will argue that some men just have more feminine qualities than others. Some men also have more rage issues than others but it doesnt give them the right to kill. Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, and each time he was tempted, he warded off the temptation by quoting scripture. How many of us today are fully devoted to knowing the word of God? God doesnt want us to read his word as a homework assignment! Its akin to a general in the army giving his troops ammunition for the battle to come!! A solder going into war is grateful for ammunition, because without it he would be overrun! Are you in the same way, grateful for the word of God? Maybe the reason so many people compromise in sin is because they foolishly thought they could go into the war with no ammunition.
When you cast your vote, do not vote in allegiance with a party. Dont vote for who is popular. Dont vote in order to appease a family member or friend. Vote for a King. Vote for a Savior. There is not a candidate that can pull our nation out of this mess we have gotten ourselves into. But there is a God who is bigger than our world. Read the Bible. Know Gods word. And vote in accordance with His commands.
One of the best things about raising boys is their never-ending depth of imagination. One day Andy and Lincoln might be Batman and Robin, running around the house in their underwear and a blanket tied to their back, and the next moment they will be Power Rangers. Yes sir, there is alot of saving the world from the forces of evil going on in the Parish household. One of the boys favorite superheros is a crusader from my youth named He-Man.
If you somehow missed out on 1980’s pop culture, Ill briefly refresh your memory. Parachute pants and Members Only jackets aside, He-Man and The Masters of The Universe were literally the most popular cartoon heroes of that decade. The premise of the cartoon took place in a far off Universe in the land of Eternia. Prince Adam was a member of the royal family who ruled Eternia for the good of the land. But Prince Adam had a secret. Whenever danger came upon Eternia, Prince Adam would grab his sword and recite these words, “By the power of Greyskull….I have the Power!!!” All the sudden lightening would surround him and he would be transformed into a muscle bound super hero with the strength of a thousand men named He-Man.
So to paint the mental picture of a typical night in our house, Andy will run around with a shirt on pretending to be the meek and mild Prince Adam. But as soon as the enemy, (his four year old brother Lincoln) comes onto the scene, Andy grabs his plastic sword and says those powerful transforming words, “By The Power of Greyskull….” Then he takes off his shirt and becomes He-Man, defender of justice and Master of the Universe! Granted this is really all in his little mind. My son doesnt magically grow muscles and gain super strength just because he recited a few words. No matter what he may think, Andy never really changed. He is still my six year old little boy pretending to be something he is not.
We chuckle when our kids do these type things and really think that they are a new creation. Yet many adults do the exact thing with their relationship to God. We go to church and hear the preacher say that there is power in the blood of the Lamb. We hear these false messages from many pulpits that lead us into a false salvation. One church in the mid west had a sign out by the road that said, “Salvation…So easy a caveman can do it!” This is the culture we live in. As David Platt once said, “American Christianity has taken the life blood out of the Gospel of Christ and replaced it with Kool-Aid.”
Walk down the aisle, talk to the preacher, and repeat this prayer, “By the Power of Greyskull……” Sorry, I mean the sinners prayer.
We are no different than a child with an over active imagination when we claim that we have salvation in Jesus Christ and he is the Lord of our lives because we can point back to a time that we recited a man made prayer. Most pagan cults include in their rituals incantations or chants that really hold no power. Its called witchcraft. Isnt it strange how this pagan concept has slowly crept into modern day evangelicals to the point to where the sinners prayer is the measuring stick by which so many use to point to their personal salvation.
If you were to ask over 90% of Americans why they believe they are saved, over 90% would begin to tell you about a time in their lives where they did like my six year old son and said a few words. And now all of the sudden, in their minds, they’ve become a regenerated, spiritual He-Man. Barnam, a Christian Research Company, already put this to the test and found that the sinners prayer was the most popular answer regarding salvation. Most of those claiming to be saved by the sinners prayer in the research hardly attended church, admitted to little or no prayer life, and apart from Sunday mornings, looked the same as their next door neighbor who didnt believe in Jesus. But bless God, they consider themselves saved. Why? Because as they put it, “I prayed the prayer.”
Heres the danger in this. Lets say that you walk that aisle and pray the sinners prayer. You are even baptised. But there is really no heart change. There is really no repentance from sins, just maybe trying harder to avoid them for a week or so. There is no regeneration of the Holy Spirit in your life. And if you are honest with yourself, there is really no love for the Lord. You have just recited an incantation.
Now lets say that tragedy befalls you. You lose your job. The bank forecloses on your house. Your marriage is in shambles. You get bad news from the doctor…its cancer. Or maybe you lose a loved one to an unexpected death. Immediately, questioning God becomes the next step. “Why would a loving God allow this to happen to me?” Or maybe you abandon your faith all together. Maybe you tell yourself, “God cant be real because a loving God wouldnt let me go through this.” Or maybe its just an indication that you knew a little about God, but you never really knew God. See, here is the problem. When someone does this, what they have done is made the cross about themselves rather than about Christ. They believe in a God who should serve them instead of the true God that they were created to serve.
You see, when I was a child I loved He-Man too. I played the same games as my kids, running around the house shirtless screaming the words that would transform me into my hero. But at the end of the day, I was still just a little skinny kid. At the end of the day, no matter what words I said, I was still powerless. I could never become just exactly like He-Man. Ive yet to meet the man (other than Jesus) who could lift a twenty ton boulder with one hand. But I realized I could begin to be conformed to his image. He-Man was the catalyst from my youth that caused me to begin weight training.
I would read books about nutrition, about the human anatomy and muscle growth as a teenager. It was what drove me. Not only did I read alot on the subject of bodybuilding, but I took action. The experts in fitness said to gain muscle, you had to work out hard daily. I sacrificed sleeping late to get up early and hit the gym. I sacrificed much of the party lifestyle to maintain proper nutrition. I was dedicated to conforming myself into a new creation. As the years passed, no longer was I a skinny little runt kid, I had transformed my body by seeking after a muscular image with all my heart.
In like manner, we can never be exactly like Jesus Christ. No one has been born or ever will be born that will walk through life sinless except Jesus. We cant be exactly like him, but we can be conformed to his image. Just saying a prayer changes nothing. It doesnt save you. Knowing Christ in a real and personal relationship is what saves you.
In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
Simply sitting under the preacher on Sunday, counting down the seconds until its over, doesnt qualify as listening to his voice. When I was seeking that He-Man image I had passion for it. I craved knowledge about fitness. I sacrificed leisure time to know more about the subject and to get stronger. What do you sacrifice in your life currently to know God? Is knowing God so important to you that you would gladly forsake an hour of sleep or your favorite television program to spend time studying his word? More importantly….parents….what are you teaching your children to be most passionate about?
Ive known men who had their young sons on t ball teams. Practice would be one day a week. But every other day of that week, that daddy was pitching to his son in the back yard, working on his fielding and batting so that his child would become a better baseball player. Do we do the same thing in regards to our kids and their relationship to Christ? What have you made Jesus to your family? Is he a far off deity in the sky whom your kids pray to before dinner and draw pictures of once a week in Sunday school? Or is he the very essence of life? Is Christ, as the apostle Paul put it, “Of First Importance.” Fathers, what is the goal you have for your kids? Men, your family will only be as close to the Lord as you are. And it begins with realizing that Christianity is not a one time prayer, but rather, a lifetime pursuit. Jesus is everything in your life, or he is nothing.
To be a strong man, I had to do the things that strong men do. I couldnt just say words like He-Man. I had to do the things that they did.
Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…”
Just as Jesus did the works he saw God the Father doing…..
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19.
And through shadowing the commands of Christ in our own life, we are conformed to our Heavenly Fathers image…..
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”. Romans 8:29.
We cant do it on our own. We cant muster up the strength to be good on our own. We can try but will always fail. Because we are not God. But if we open our hearts, and begin to seek the Lord Jesus with all of our hearts, we begin to be transformed. Not from just the reading of the word, but of actually doing his will. The power of God is not just in the reading of the commands of Christ. Life transformation….heart transformation begins in the application. And so many of us miss out on knowing God because we never seek to be like Christ. Instead we want the easy salvation…to say a prayer. Which is a false, damning salvation and a lie from the enemy. Ill leave you with this quote from Eric Ludy, which sums it up best…..
“Don’t pray that God would teach you how to love like He loves; pray that He would fill you with Himself and that He would love in and through you. Don’t pray that He would teach you to have joy; pray that the living God full of joy would enter into you. Don’t pray that He would teach you how to be peaceful; ask for the God of peace, the Prince of peace to infill you. Because if you try to imitate in your own strength, you will be a miserable replica. But if you allow the impartation of Jesus Christ to overtake you, suddenly it all works because it is Him imitating Himself, and He is very good at being God.”
I think there is a part of the human brain that doesnt fully develop until we reach our mid twenties. Its that part of the brain that has to do with common sense and reality. Therein, lies the reason that in our teenage years, for some strange reason, we tend to think that we are invincible and that nothing will ever happen to us.
It was around my junior year in high school, way before that part of my brain had begun to mature, that I remember thinking I was Superman and I could defy the laws of nature. My buddy from high school Brandon and I had gone to the beach for the week of Spring Break. Both of us thought we were super studs back then. We were both into weight training and working out, and we had this inflated sense of reality when it came to the limits of our human bodies.
We had been laying out on the beach, swimming in the surf and scoping out the girls when around lunch time, we got bored. Keep in mind, we were no different than most teens in the fact that we both had the attention span of a gnat. Needless to say boredom came very easily. To cure our boredom, I came up with an awesome idea. I spotted a huge building way down the beach. I said to Brandon, “Im sure if we run down there to that big resort, there will be lots more people and things to do!” Another folly of being a teenager is that we had no understanding of the term, “Depth perception.” Unlike a rear view mirror in a car, objects on the beach appear closer at first glance than they really are.
So being the über studs were thought we were, we decided to run with all our might towards this resort we had spotted off in the distance. Running full speed on the beach….at high noon….in the heat of the day. Are you getting the picture of our brilliance now? The first fifteen minutes we felt great. I thought we’d be there in no time. Around the thirty minute mark, our steady stride morphed into more of a speed walk. As we closed in on sixty minutes, we were walking at the pace of a tortoise. We were at a stretch of the beach where there were no hotels and no civilization around us. As we gazed straight ahead at the resort that we were heading towards, even after an hour, it still looked almost as far off as it had when we had begun our journey.
When we turned around, the hotels that were where we started from looked like tiny little specks on the beach. We were hot, tired, hungry, and extremely thirsty. It was literally like being in the desert and searching for the closest oasis. We finally stopped. We looked forward at the tiny little resort and then we looked behind us at the tiny little hotels in the distance. So it was time to pick the lesser of the two evils. Did we press forward or turn around and go back the way we came from? We knew that it had taken us about an hour to get to where we presently were standing. However, we had no idea how much farther it would be until we reached the resort. It was at that moment, our adolescent brains gave birth to a brand new concept named common sense.
This was well before the days of kids having cell phones, and no one was around for miles….and again, it was blazing hot. So we decided to begin the trek back towards our starting point. “Just dont think about being thirsty.” Brandon said. He began to jog a steady jog and started to encourage me to do the same. “Breath in through your nose, and out through you mouth.” Keep your head up.” “Good, strong, breaths.” Brandon was saying all the correct things to encourage me. And his advice was good. But it still didnt help me in the matter of still being thirsty, still being hot, and still being tired. He could say all the correct things to me and it still didnt change the fact that I was exhausted and at the end of myself in this miniature desert.
Many years back, I found myself in the same desert situation theologically in my relationship with God. I was teaching a Sunday School class and leading a small group. I felt like I was communicating the truths of God clearly, and people in my class were beginning to come to an awakening due to the stirring of the Holy Spirit. And somewhere in the middle of my constant studying and teaching, I realized that my faith had become incredibly intellectual, yet I felt like God was so far from me. I could actually counsel people in my class who felt far from God and give them the correct scriptures and tell them to look at certain passages to help. I could prescribe the correct medicine so to speak, but that same medicine I held no relief for me. What do you do when the faith you possess seems so far from you? What do you do when you know the right biblical answer, but that’s not enough to save you from the desert you’re currently walking through?
So the incident my junior year of high school on the beach is more or less symbolic of the spiritual deserts that I have at times walked through in my own life. We can know all the Sunday School answers at times, and still feel so disconnected from God. And when we begin to feel disconnected from God….when we find ourselves in the desert…..its easy for the enemy to convince us that God doesnt care about what we are going through. And then we just give up on pursuing God and instead fall prey sinful drought.
In Ecclesiastes 5, King Solomon gives us some insight as to how to survive in the deserts of life. He tells us how to avoid falling away when God feels distant.
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God….” Ecclesiastes 5:1.
The phrase “Guard your steps” literally means to pay attention to your steps in Hebrew. And here is why Solomon says this. The direction of your feet literally dictates the direction of your life. Look at your feet. Are you constantly chasing and pursuing Christ? Even in the hard times of life? Or when things get hard, do you shake a fist at God and just give up? In giving up, we begin to shift our focus off of the pursuit of Christ and on to other things. We begin to take let our heads drop, and we stop looking ahead towards to destination and begin to focus on our unquenched thirsts. Namely, our own misery and self pity.
And Solomon is telling us, when we are in that desert, to keep focus on the goal. To keep walking towards the Christ, even when he seems so far off into the distance. Are your steps constantly pointed towards the house of God? Are you complaining that due to circumstances in your life, God has abandoned you? Take a look at your feet. Could it be that you are still in the desert because you’ve stopped walking towards him?
Look again at what Solomon says next in verse 1.
“Go near to listen rather than offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know they do wrong.” Ecclesiastes 5:1.
Solomon is saying when times get difficult, and we feel far from God, we dont want to hear anything from anyone. We become consumed in our misery. And Solomon is reminding us that we need to continue to seek and listen for God in these times. But again, how do we do this? The first thing we will eventually have to do in trying times is to determine whether on not the scriptures are true or if God was just kidding in all of them. To draw near to God means that we dont attempt to strike deals with him.
And we do this so often.
“Hey God, if you get me out of this situation, I promise to tithe more.”
“God if you save me from this desert, I promise that Ill give my life to you.”
And on and on the bartering goes. My six year old son tries this at times with me, but he doesnt have anything to barter with. He thinks he does with his toys and such. But at the end of the day, he doesnt have a job. He didnt pay for anything he has. Ultimately its all mine. Ive given him everything he has in life. In like manner, we have nothing to barter with when it comes to God. Everything we have in life has been given to us by him. We would not even have breath if it hadn’t been first given to us by Him!
And in the midst of this bartering, God says to us, “How about you stop talking and focusing on yourself so much….and just listen.”
In these desert times, cover yourself in the scriptures. One noted pastor said that in his darker moments in life, he would just read the book of Psalm out loud to God. As if reminding him of his promises over and over. Look at what Solomon says next in verse 2.
“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in Heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fools voice with many words.” Ecclesiastes 5:2.
When God seems distant, we tend to go off at the mouth at times. We either feel we have to eloquently pray to God in a certain way or ask him rhetorical questions about our situation. King David did this when he was in a spiritual desert and felt far from God. In the Psalms, David writes, “How long will you forget me Lord?” What a crazy question to ask God! Im sure God was thinking, “Forget you??? Do you remember Goliath when I empowered you to slay the Giant? Or how about the little incident with Bathsheba and how I got you out of that mess?” Pastor Paul Washer said there was a time in his life where he felt God was no where near him. So he would go into the woods and angrily toss stones up into the sky saying, “Did that hit the door to Heaven? Do you hear me knocking now God?”Where are you?”
Jesus says in Matthew 6:5-8, that we should not pray to him with eloquent words. We should be real with him. Its ok to cry out to God. But in the desert, in the times when Jesus feels so far from you, he does expect you to keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking steps continually towards him.
Look at what Solomon says next….
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools, fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow, than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Ecclesiastes 5:4-6.
Lets unpack this verse. Many times when to word of God is being spoken like in a church setting, things will be mentioned that are outside of scripture. Heres what I mean. You may hear a friend at church mention getting plugged into a new small group. Or you may have a family member encouraging you to go get involved in church. Or someone may ask you to start coming to a weekly Bible study. Or you might even read a book or blog post that opens your eyes to new truths. Regardless, these things are not happening by coincidence. Thats the voice of God. Thats the Holy Spirit leading you out of the desert. For you, water may be going to that new Bible study, or actually starting to go to church, or taking a family members advice to really begin to study your Bible.
But more times than not we remain focused on our misery. More times than not we make vows to people.
“Yeah, Ill think about going to that new bible Study.”
“Yeah, Ill probably start coming to church.'”
“Yeah, Ill try to read more of my bible.
We refuse to take these steps and fail to realize that God hasnt abandon us….he’s actually trying to lead us to the oasis. But either pride or idolatry stops us from committing, and we basically say “No thanks.” And God says as Solomon points out, “How about you stop making false vows and stop asking, “Which way out of the desert”, and you begin listening to me.” Remember, God works through people. Other people that are right now in your life. And he sometimes points the way out of the pain others. The question is not, “God are you hearing me?” The question is, “Are you listening?”
Finally, lets look at how Solomon closes out chapter 5.
“Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, fear God.” Ecclesiastes 5:7.
Solomon is saying that a dream is not reality. Just because we know a few Bible verses and Sunday school answers is but a dream. Without a personal relationship with God…one where you are constantly seeking his face, even in the hard times, words are just meaningless. And look at how Solomon closes. He says to fear God. Solomon says, “Maybe you will get out of your desert quickly…but may be you wont. But no matter what our circumstances, we should always have reverence for God.”
What I am about to say will be hard for some to swallow. Sometimes in our lives, God ordains the desert. Sometimes, hardships in life are not punishment because you have sinned or been disobedient. Sometimes, God deliberately puts you out there, because the outcome of that desert experience will bring us closer to Him, if we can learn to listen. The book of Hosea in the Bible is the perfect example of this.
A quick summary of Hosea. God comes to Hosea and tells him that Hosea must marry a prostitute. And God tells Hosea that she is going to be unfaithful to you, and she is going to hurt you, and she is going to break your heart into a million pieces. And God says to Hosea, “Each time she hurts you, Im going to increase your love for her so that you cannot walk away from her.” God tells Hosea that he wants him to walk through this painful desert.” God tells Hosea this upfront. If you remember, Job walked through his own desert, but God didnt tell him why until he had gotten to the other side.
But here is the beauty of Hosea. God didnt leave him in the desert. God had a purpose for the pain, and it was to transform his cheating wife Gomer. In Hosea chapter 2, God basically says to Hosea, “Here is what I am going to do with your unfaithful wife Gomer. Im going to take her out into the desert. And through the pain of finding no satisfaction in her adulterous lifestyle, she will finally come to the end of herself.” And then we see the true character of God. God doesnt say next that he lures her to the end of herself to beraid her or chastise her or punish her for her sins.
God says when she has finally reached the end of herself, and the pain of the desert is too much to bear….God says,…
“Therefore, I am going to alure her. I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards…”Hosea 2:14-15.
God says he is going to take Gomer out into the desert, and when she is gasping for water, when she is exhausted of herself, it is there that he will begin to speak tenderly to her. In the old testament, wine and vineyards are associated with joy. God says he is going to return to her the joy she once had in her innocence. And the next verse in Hosea is so heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time. God will go on to say its out in that desert, where its dry and painful….that she’ll learn to stop calling Him master……and begin calling him husband.
Simply put, Gomer will begin to stop seeing God as some far off being, and in the struggles of the desert, she’ll enter into a real, intimate relationship with him! Thats our God. Thats how much he loves you. God ordains the hardships of life not to hurt you. But that so like Gomer, you may begin to stop seeing him as this far off boss of the universe, and being seeing God as intimately as you would your spouse. Sometimes, the deserts are needed in order to bring us closer to Him.
Sometimes, there are things in our lives that we may not even be aware of that are hindering our relationship with God. It may be wealth, it may be a relationship. And God loves us too much to leave us separated from him. So sometimes, God has to say to you, “Lets go to the desert.” Not because he wants to harm you. But because he wants you to really know him. In your desert times…when God seems distant….dont stop running to him. Rather, run harder. Listen more intently to fellow believers in your life. God wont let your thirst consume you. He is waiting to return to you your vineyards. But you must press in. Your oasis could be much closer than you think.
Imagine for a moment that ever since you were able to walk, your daddy took you fishing at this huge lake not far from your house. This was a weekly thing. You loved fishing at this lake. As you grew older, this was just the normal part of your week. In your teen years you began to go fishing with your friends at the lake, and eventually, you began to take your own children to experience this weekly tradition with you. Fishing at this lake had become a staple in the life of your family.
Then one day, you walk down to the lake just like you’ve done countless times before, and you run into a sheriff planting signs all around the lake. The sherif informs you that they are trying to preserve a certain species of fish that now lives in the lake. So a new law has just been passed that absolutely no one is allowed to do any fishing in the lake. In fact, the law has made the preservation of this species of fish such a high priority that the penalty for anyone breaking this law is death.
What would you do? Would you be obedient to the law? What would you think of someone who told you….
“Well I am all for following the law, but this law is just too radical for me to obey. I mean, we’ve always gone fishing at that lake. Thats just too much to expect of me.”
I dont know about you, but I would think that person was crazy! To continue on doing something under penalty of death just because its what you’ve always done is madness!
This brings me to an issue that our family has been wrestling with for some time. Let me start by presenting the scripture that ignited this grudge match within me….
In Revelation 21:8, the Bible mentions that ALL liars will have their part in the lake of fire. The second death. Hell. We know that doesnt mean if you have ever told a lie, you are destined for Hell. Forgiveness is offered to all sinners at the foot of the cross. All that is asked of us is that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and repent of our sinful lifestyle. To repent means to recognize our trespasses against God and his commands, and to turn from them and begin to follow at all costs the Christ.
Next, I want to define what exactly is a lie? Well, a lie is anything we tell someone that is not true. And we can draw the conclusion from Revelation 21 that God deems living an unrepentant lifestyle of lying is damnable. Unrepentant sin is anything that we willingly make a habit of doing. Its a sin that is just normal to us. Eventually, it can become such a normal thing that we dont even view it as sin anymore.
So now that Ive set the stage, here is my question to you. What do we do with Santa Claus during the Christmas season? Is he an acceptable tradition? Or are we blatantly lying to our children?
If there is anything that is a staple in our culture, it is the telling of the legend of Saint Nick. Saint Nick was a real life person who lived in the ancient days in the time of Constantine. Stories vary about Saint Nick. One pretty steady constant is that he was a very giving man, and a Christian at that. He would give gifts to those who had nothing. There are some reports that has even said that Saint Nick was a Bishop and a proclaimer of the Gospel and was persecuted by the Roman empire.
The legend of this man obviously grew throughout the centuries. It went from the telling of a man that was indeed a saint who gave to the less fortunate all the way to today where he is portrayed as a jolly fat man in a red suit who is basically God.
You read that last statement right. Our society today has twisted the true story of a good man named Saint Nick into the deceptive lie of a God man named Santa Claus.
*He’s Omniscient He’s sees and knows everything you do.
*He rewards you if you are good.
*He’s omnipresent He can be everywhere and see everything at once
*He is good and righteous
*He is the most famous “Old Man in the Sky” figure.
*He has record of all of the good boys and girls in a book…or a list.
Sounds alot like the God of scripture. Could the fabricated story of Santa Claus actually be a deception planted in the minds of men by Satan? The devil’s plan is to rob God of any and all Glory at any cost. Satan’s plan is to take our eyes of the savior and place them on false idols that promise the supernatural miracles of our God, only without any repentance required. What better way to accomplish this plan than by beginning the deception early on in the lives of children.
Noel Piper, wife to Pastor John Piper, wrote an article on this very subject and addressed how Santa is not God. Here is what she said……
“For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?
What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.
Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.
First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn’t that more significant than a funny, old, make-believe man who drops in just once a year?
Second, I think most children know their family’s usual giving patterns for birthday and special events. They tend to have an instinct about their family’s typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the “I-want-this, give-me-that” syndrome.
And finally, when children know that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.” -Noel Piper.
Just because something has been ingrained in our culture as tradition doesnt make it right. Yes, forsaking the legend of Santa Claus does seem radical to the outside world. But we have to ask ourselves just what is at stake! I am not saying do away with Christmas by any means. Im saying lets do Christmas in a way that is glorifying to God! Lets have a Christmas not driven by media and popular culture and replace it with one steered by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We wonder at times why some kids today seem to be more selfish and self centered in their thinking. Maybe the questions should be, “What is the example we have been setting before them?” Are we unconsciously conditioning our children to have a mind set that is contrary to the Gospel?
I believe researching and telling the true story of the Christ follower Saint Nick who lived to serve others, like Jesus, would have a greater impact on our families than that of an over weight magic man who was there to meet our selfish wishes like a genie in a bottle. The example that Jesus gave was never to ask for things for yourself. Rather it was to be a servant to others. It was to see that there is much more joy in giving rather than receiving. Lets keep Santa in Christmas, but only to play a supporting role. And lets use his story so that it points towards the teachings and example of Jesus Christ our redeemer.
Have you ever thought about these questions? The topic of salvation and how exactly God saves is the most controversial doctrine in the church today. It has been known to divide friendships, families, and even split churches. And let me say, for we as the body of Christ to ever divide over the mystery of salvation is not only childish but also heart breaking to God. If the words Calvinism, Arminianism, predestination, the extent of God’s sovereignty or the elect is mentioned from the pulpit….as they say in the old South, “Them’s fightin words.” I don’t consider myself a Calvinist or an arminianist. What I am is a follower of Jesus Christ. And regardless of if I like what his word says, or if it makes me uncomfortable, if God said it, then there is no argument.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
We can get all the doctorate degrees in Divinity and study scripture twelve hours a day and still we will never understand all the ways of God. Why would God hide the reasoning behind his ways from us? Because he wants us to trust him, and that is where faith comes in. If you are a parent, think about your relationship with your own children. Every parent has had this situation where the child continuously asks ‘why’ regarding something you’ve told them. After about the fourth, ‘why’, I generally say to my boys, “Because I said so.” I’m basically saying to them, “You may not understand my ways, but you don’t have to.” All I want them to do is trust me because everything I do is done with their best interest at heart.
But God does reveal some things to us. God does give us examples of how he works throughout scripture. Is salvation a 50/50 work that God requires mans help because he cannot do it alone? Does God prod our hearts only to leave the decision to accept him or deny him up to us? Unlike a high school boy asking a girl out and waiting in anticipation for her answer, God doesn’t need our acceptance. Regardless what theological title it has been given by man, I believe scripture attests over and over that regeneration and salvation is a 100% work of God. No one would argue that salvation is a supernatural occurence. One would also have to agree that the only supernatural being is God.
Humanity as a whole so badly wants to take credit, even if it’s in the smallest way, for everything good that happens. We innately want that pat on the back. Thats why this doctrine is so offensive to man. It is offensive to our inner most being not to be able to give ourselves some credit for a decision made to follow Jesus. In some small way, we want to be able to say, “Thanks for saving me Jesus, arent you proud of me for choosing to follow you?” Does this line of thinking strike anyone else as extremely arrogant on our behalf?
So here’s a question to sum it all up….Does God choose and accept us as his children, or do we choose and accept God as our Father? Sounds like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Well let’s go straight to the source and see what the Lord Jesus said on this matter.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…”John 15:16.
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said this? Well, I believe he means we did not choose or accept him, but he chose us! But in order for this to be true, that would mean we had nothing to do with our salvation! Some shudder at the thought. That would mean that I didn’t just have a change of heart, but God literally changed my heart! So where in scripture is this proof of God saying he changes the heart of the wicked and not man? Buckle up…here we go…….
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 1 John 1:13
Thats what the above verse is saying. If we combine John 15:16 with 1 John 1:13, it may read something like this. “God decides to give the gift of salvation to certain people of his choosing, having nothing to do with their decision.”
Sometimes the greatest gifts God gives us in life are those that most people would run from. Francis Chan once said, “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” What a follower of Christ would see as a treasure from God, the world may view as crazy. Even some Christians at times may not recognize Gods gifts and could very easily mistake them for punishment…as if God’s favor is not on them. Even the most devout Christians can miss out on awesome blessings if they are not filtering every experience through the lens of scripture.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think back to one such gift God graced me with. This gift was the opportunity for my family and I to move from the United States to Panama to live as missionaries for six months last year. I have to be honest with you, upon arriving in the country as I looked around, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh my goodness, what a mistake I have made!” So why do I see this experience as such a treasure? Many people have looked at me as if I was just let loose from the nut house when I talk about my love of living in a third world country. Let me explain to you why Panama was such a special gift from God.
The airport we flew into in David, Panama was very small and out dated. As we left the airport and drove to our new home, I saw no nicely manicured neighborhoods or shopping malls. The roads were in bad condition, and the homes we passed driving were not much more than a cinder block hut with a tin roof. Some homes only had dirt floors, which was easy to see because they didnt have doors attached. We stayed in David, Panama for about a month before moving into the mountains of Boquete about thirty minutes north.
We rented a house in what was considered an upscale neighborhood. But the rent was dirt cheap by US standards. We had no air conditioning in our home, and television was pointless when the few channels we received were in Spanish. We didnt have technology, fancy shopping centers, or movies to pour ourselves into, because it just wasnt available. So in order to fill that void that is temporarily satisfied by so many things in America, I turned to scripture.
The time that would have been used to watch television was now filled with reading my bible on our back porch, surrounded by the majestic mountains of Panama. The times I would have used in the states communicating with friends via the internet or Facebook was now replaced with face to face interactions with the people we were ministering to in Panama. God took away all of the things that we just view as normal….even necessary in our Americanized lives, and left me with nothing but Him. I began to realize just how blinded we really are in the United States to our own wealth and how subtlety and gradually Satan has taken our eyes off of the mission of Christ and placed our focus more on ourselves. Look at the example below Jesus gives…..
“A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:19-25.
It is apparent that in the days of this rich young ruler’s youth, he had some sort of “religious” experience. In verse 22, the rich man says that he has kept certain commandments of God since he was a boy. In modern day terms, he may have walked down the aisle at an emotional youth camp and professed giving his life to Christ. He may have been baptised. He may have went on from their to be a leader in his youth group. He may be telling Jesus that he gives some money some money to charity occasionally, teaches a Sunday school class, and is a loving husband and father to his family. He has a laundry list of accomplishments of good things he has done in the name of God.
But Jesus could see his heart. And Jesus pin pointed the one thing that this rich man held in higher esteem than Christ. His wealth. Jesus asked him to give up the one thing that took his attention off of God. But dont just picture Jesus asking this rich man to give up money. Wealth is not just money….its a love of materialism over Christ.
Are we like the rich young ruler? Is it possible some of us have been playing a religious game? Put yourself in the rich young rulers place. And picture Jesus coming to you. You begin to tell Jesus how you love your church, you tithe on Sundays, and you never watch rated R movies. And Jesus says, “Yes, all of that is great. But if you really love me, lets clear some of the things that you spend more time with than me.” What if Jesus said to us…….
“You still lack one thing…..give up your Facebook account….”
“You still lack one thing…..throw away your computer…..”
“You still lack one thing…..give away your television set……”
“You still lack one thing….Downsize your two car garage house and give the excess money that you now save on the mortgage to the poor….”
The frightening reality is that Jesus does say these things to us. Whats even more frightening is that if we were to really recognize this, many of us would cling to our religious resume of things we have done in God’s name and in some way justify our idols so that we may hold on to them.
And Jesus would look at us, just as he did the rich young ruler and say, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
We have a tendency to hear this verse about the rich and think of someone two or three rungs above us on the financial ladder. We would never consider ourselves rich! But lets examine ourselves a bit further…..
-Do you have a cell phone?
-Do you have a home?
-Do you have a car?
-Do you have a bed, a carpeted floor, electricity and running water in your house?
-Do you have a bath tub or must you bath in a nearby river?
-Do you have food available to you for consumption every day?
Do you realize that the United States of America is the exception in comparison with the majority of the rest of the world? We live in the richest country in the world! Little things like a cell phone, or a car, or even a house with air conditioning are considered necessities to us, but to most of the rest of the world, these things are luxuries! Do not be deceived. When Jesus speaks of the rich, Jesus is talking to you and me. We’re the rich.
We have a tendancy to think in America that we are so blessed and have such an advantage spiritually over poorer places in the world. When in all actuality, Jesus is saying, “It going to be really hard for you.” And its because of the abundance of distractions and stuff we fill our lives with that easily take the place of Christ. But it is possible for the rich man to enter Heaven. Look at Zaccheaus, the rich tax collector who after meeting Jesus, happily gave away half of his possessions to the poor in exchange for Christ! He realized that the real treasure was not in video games, or I Pads, or stuff, but in Jesus. Just give me Jesus.
One of my favorite evangelists of old, Leonard Ravenhill told the story of a preacher up north once. He said that it was snowing terribly hard outside and it was bone chilling cold. In spite of the weather conditions, some of the church congregation managed to show up for church that evening. The preacher stepped into the pulpit on that cold night as he looked at the few people that made it to church and greeted them.
The preacher said to the congregation, “How wonderful it is of you to make it out to church on this dreadfully cold night.” The people were patting each other on the back and apparently very proud of their level of commitment. The preacher continued. He said, “Yes, it is great that you braved the snow and freezing temperature to come and spend time with the Lord. In fact, I think its marvelous that you left your central heated homes, and got in your warm, comfortable heated cars, and drove a few short minutes to this warm church with such comfortable pews to sit in.”
The preacher went on and then said, “But did you know that in Africa, Ive seen men travel miles by bare foot, through the jungle, where dangers of lions and wild animals lay at each turn, just to go to a small, block hut and listen to a three hour bible study in 100 plus degree temperature. Afterward, they must make the long walk home in the dark, to go back to their home which many times has no food for them. Yet they never miss a service. I am going to preach now, but I must go throw up first. Our culture makes me sick.”
What will the church of Jesus Christ in America do when real persecution falls upon us in a world where we hold our comforts in such high esteem? We pat ourselves on the back for our morality yet we are blind to the fact that we love the comforts and glitter of this world more than Christ!
Jesus delivered a message to the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelations. These people were very affluent compared to the rest of the world. Much like us. They prided themselves on religious bench marks instead of having a true commitment and love for Jesus. Here is what the Lord said to them.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea Write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22.
So much could be unpacked in this verse. But lets focus on verse 16. God tells them that they are lukewarm. Historians have said that the church in Laodicea was located on top of a big hill. So they had developed pumps to deliver the cold water up the hill through a pipe system. However, by the time the water was pumped from the cold spring below, it would lose it coldness and grow lukewarm. As a result, the people in the town of Laodicea complained about the drinking water constantly.
God is relating to them in a way that they understand. He calls them lukewarm. Many christians misuse the term lukewarm to describe a person who follows Jesus just not very closely. But look at what Jesus says in verse 17 to describe the church. ” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Does this sound like the description to someone who is a follower of Christ? How does the old hymn go….”I once was blind, but now Im blind…?” No, its “I once was blind but now I see!” Jesus is speaking to a people who are so caught up in their wealth that they are missing what it means to follow Jesus! Its not just a profession of the lips or Sunday school attendance! Its viewing the temporary world we live in through the eyes of Christ.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:21 that on that day of judgement, many will bring their lists of church stuff and things to the foot of his throne. They wont realize that they had lived their earthly life just like the rich young ruler. Like the ruler, they will boast of the things they did for God and the commandments that they kept. And Jesus will reply to them, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.” In the book of Isaiah, the Lord tells worshippers that he tried over and over to get their attention, but they put more stock in their acts of worship than in self denial for the cause of Christ, and they would not listen.
The scriptures speak over and over of the Christian life being one of self denial and sacrifice. Yet so many of us treat God as a cherry on top of this ice cream sunday of life we live. We treat Jesus as an accessory to our stuff. Yet if push came to shove, and we were told to give up the ice cream or the cherry, we’d sooner part ways with the cherry than give up our junk food. You see, many want to follow Jesus, as long as he doesnt require too much. Many want to follow him, as long as we can continue to live in the world and not deny ourselves. Its easy to love the aspects of following Christ that ease our conscious or benefit us in some way. And its also easy to skim over the parts that call us to a great sacrifice.
My trip to Panama was a gift. And the reason it was such a gift is because the real world as Jesus sees it became apparent to me. The materialistic scales fell from my eyes. The things I thought were necessities in my life became obvious that they were luxuries. The people we served in the remote indian villages of Panama lived in dirt huts and had literally nothing. But each time we arrived, they showed nothing but hospitality to us. And though they didnt have all material things and conviences of a modern world…..they were happy. I realized how rich I really was. And I saw that I was in danger of becoming the rich young ruler who loved his possessions more than Christ.
Pastor Paul Washer pointed out in one of his sermons that in the old testament, thunder and lightning were used as warnings from God to his people to repent of their sins and believe and follow him regardless of the cost. But on that day when we stand in front of the Lord at the end of our lives, there will be no thunder. And there will be no more lightning. Because the time for warning is over. It will be too late to change or repent and begin living for Christ and his mission. The only thing left for us will be his judgement.
Examine your life. Ask yourself a question….”What is it that would be the hardest for me to give up?” And when you pin point that idol, does it consume more of your time, thoughts and energy than is allotted to Christ? I tend to think very deep into things. But our eternal destination is at stake. And Matthew 7:13 hauntingly reminds us that few are those who will actually enter the kingdom of God, and many are those who will be deceived to follow the broad road leading to Hell. Could it be Jesus requires much more of a commitment than we ever thought possible? When you weigh carrying such a cross on a scale compared to the wonders of Heaven His children will inherit, our self denial is actually a very small price to pay. Do you live with an eternal perspective?