In one of the comments on an earlier post, the question was posted: “If God is love, how then can He send so many to hell?” We know that God is love because the Bible states this to be true. But in saying this, far too many people rip “God is love” out of context and make it mean whatever they want it to mean.
Yesterday on Foxnews, they ran a story about a school in Alabama where the principal was trying to ban the term “Easter Bunny” from the vocabulary of the students in an attempt to keep anyone from being offended. Yes, this is political correctness run amok.
As Christians, I don’t think we should be the least bit offended at all. Especially given the fact that the Easter Bunny has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let the loon ban the term, and we should join her in doing so, given that the bunny is man’s tradition, not anything biblical.
This was originally published on September 20, 2010. Please note that I was preaching at Grace Pres in Jackson, TN. I’m no longer preaching there.
How would you like the responsibility of preaching those words to your congregation? I had the opportunity and privilege to do so yesterday. I say privilege and opportunity because it is always a privilege to preach God’s word to His people. But yesterday’s message was difficult. Who likes to say, “Hey, guess what? As a Christian, know that the world will hate you.”
I couched it in terms of an ad agency. How the ad agency reveal that truth? How would it go over if our church ran ads “Come to Grace Pres, where you will be taught about the world’s hatred for you.“
This is the truth of the gospel. When we become Christians, we are plucked out of the world by Christ and made His disciples. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
As a Christian, we must realize that we are no longer members of the realm called: the world. We have become members of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that means we are automatically at odds with the world. This is a wonderful reality for us in the long run, but in the short run, it means that we will suffer persecution and hatred from the world.
Because the world first hated Christ. If we just look at the number of times that John talks about how Jesus was not received, or rejected or hated or threatened with death, we see that the world absolutely despises our Savior. The rejection is complete. I know that there are those who like to say things like, “Well, I love Jesus Christ but cannot stand Christians.”
This is an out and out lie. Jesus said that if we love Him, then we will keep His commandments, and His commandments are that we love one another, i.e., fellow believers. So to reject Christians, is to reject Christ. To reject Christ, is to reject the Father. Welcome to the realm of the world.
However if we are of Christ, then we to love one another because the world will hate us. We need to stick together as believers and encourage one another. I believe this is one of the reasons that Jesus said three times in His upper-room discourse: “These things I command you, that you love one another.” He knew that the world would hate us as well and we not only need His Spirit in us, but also one another. This is why we are to remain together as a body. To separate ourselves, is to distance ourselves from Christ and His Kingdom. This also opens us up to the attack of Satan. Remember, he prowls around like a roaring lion. Roaring lions never go after the pack, but after the sick and the young and those who are alone. So we are to stay together.
We must also realize that when the world does display its hatred for us, we are to rejoice. Listen to Christ’s words from the sermon on the mount:
Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
If we did not have the future promises given to us by Christ, the warnings of the world’s hatred for us would be sorely depressing. But we are given a wonderful promise: great is your reward in heaven. When we suffer for His name, then we should rejoice and be glad because we have a future hope that far exceeds anything we may have on this side of glory.
There is nothing here in this world that will last, or compare to the infinite joy and beauty we will have in glory with the Lord. When we remember this reality, we can endure the hatred of the world. For the love of Christ far surpasses any love that the world has to offer for us, for Christ’s love is enduring and far more fulfilling. The world’s love for its own is passing and in the end, a lie. It’s not true love in the sense that it does not seek the best interests of those who experience it. It cannot truly satisfy or fulfill those who yearn for it.
When Jesus tells us that the world hates us, we should rejoice because we really do not want the world’s love in the end. His love is far better. The sufferings and the hatred we may endure are only temporary. But not His love, or His Kingdom, or His promises. In view of all that, rejoice that the world does hate us. It means that we are standing for righteousness’ sake and suffering for His name. That is a blessing.
Yesterday, in my sermon, I mentioned this video. This woman is standing for righteousness’ sake. She is standing against killing the unborn especially black children. Watch the response to her. One man, white and liberal, tries to bring up adopting babies, as in, if you are really pro-life, you will adopt babies. Guess what? There are plenty of people wanting to adopt children in the U.S. If we would stop aborting all these children, then there would not be waiting lists for adoption.
The point is that you see the world’s hatred against this woman as she stands for righteousness’ sake. Please watch the video and support the movie if you can. It’s from The Runaway Slave movie.
You can see more about this movie here. It’s put together by C.L. Bryant, a black pastor who is conservative and is trying to show the dangers of socialism, progressivism, etc.
Hattip to Neil for the video.
Jody, a member of my church, mentioned to me today a conversation he had with a woman about sharing the gospel. Like many Christians, she was under the impression that she needed to live the gospel, be the gospel, and love as the gospel before she could actually get around to sharing the gospel.
She, like many others, has been duped because this is a lie straight from the devil himself that actually prevents the gospel from being shared. If we could live the gospel and be the gospel and love as the gospel, then we wouldn’t need Christ now would we?
Dr. Keith Ablow has written a truly troubling article for Foxnews this week entitled We Are Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists. He documents how a study was conducted of freshmen at universities across the nation showing that a majority of freshmen believed that they were gifted and driven to succeed even though their grades and test scores indicated otherwise. The narcissistic tendencies among young adults has been increasing for the past 30 years.
Ablow says that this is not surprising at all, given the culture that we live in truly caters to the exaltation of the self. Ablow writes:
I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
We truly do live in a world in which each one of us is the center of our own stories. We have our followings on Facebook, blogs, twitter, chat rooms, and even the games we play on the internet. There is a real temptation to find meaning in all these things, but the reality is that in the end, none of these things matter at all.
For instance, video games really do give someone a false sense of self worth in playing them. I remember playing Age of Kings while in seminary. It’s a game in which the player builds a kindgom using little men and warriors and takes over other kingdoms and warriors as he grows in stature and power in the game. One can obtain great levels of “power” in the game itself and really create a name for one’s self. The problem is, the moment that you shut off the computer, is the moment that reality comes crashing down on the player. He or she is no longer the great warrior or conqueror, just someone who spent hours playing a game. The false realities do come to an end.
Ablow points this out as well:
False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting. That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while. They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.
Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface. I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.
We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape. Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.
I agree with him. We do need a plan ready for the countless people who come crashing down with the realities that their false worlds truly are nothing but from the land of make believe. We need something that will give them true significance and true meaning. These things cannot be found on the psychiatrists couch or the pharmacists bottle.
These things can only be found in the One and His Kingdom that doesn’t pass away. Unlike Age of Kings, the Kingdom of Christ is eternal and so are those who belong to His Kingdom. To embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ means becoming significant based on the significance of another, namely Christ. We don’t find significance in ourselves, ever.
This is because we are fallen humans to begin with. We lost our true significance in the fall of Adam and all the false pretenses of life will never return that significance. This is why Christ is so important. He restores what was lost by Adam so many years ago and gives that significance to those who trust in Him for deliverance from these false realities.
But we must start with the premise that sin is real. Sin is not something we conjure up in our minds when we feel bad, but a true offense against a holy and just God. The very things that our false realities have been trying to cover up, must be exposed and dealt with. This is why Christ is so important to lasting realities. He dealt with the believer’s sin on the cross in a real and lasting way. The sin and debt He pays for are truly dealt with so that we can be reconciled to the Father. This is why Paul calls the gospel a ministry of reconciliation.
Once we are reconciled, then we truly can live a life of meaning and contentment because our meaning is found in Him, and not ourselves. There is no on or off switch to the real meaning and lives we have been given in Christ. While our lives may lack glamor or popularity, they have real meaning because the simple things we do throughout the day are things we do for Him.
Yes, we may be ignored in the false world of Facebook or Twitter. But our heavenly Father knows the struggles we will have and He gives us His Spirit to deal with them. This is far more meaningful than the number of friends I have in the social sphere. In Christ, we have One eternal friend who will never defriend us.
Heath being witnessed to by a man who came back from the dead. An excellent post on the centrality of the Gospel and the necessity of God’s word.
The Southern Baptist Church voted this week at their convention to keep the “sinner’s prayer” as a form of conversion. Some might think this an odd thing, but the there have been those Baptist Calvinist who have questioned the use of the “sinner’s prayer.” They have done so because it gives the allusion that by saying the “sinner’s prayer,” one is actually saved.
One is not saved by saying the “sinner’s prayer.” I agree with the Calvinistic Baptist and this in one of the reasons I left the SBC back in the 1990s. Too much emphasis is put on what we do as opposed to what God does in saving us. No where does the Bible ever tell us to utter this prayer, it truly is an invention of men, specifically that bastard of revivalism known as Charles Finney. Sorry but I must call him that. He did more damage to the church in American than a hundred liberal courts or seminaries with the implementation of his new methods, i.e., the sinner’s prayer. More churches have been led down a hell-bound path by adopting such practices as altar call than any liberal professor could ever dream of. It would boggle our minds to know the number of people who were led to believe they were saved by trusting in these damnable actions of their own, instead of trusting in Christ. You hear it today every time the sinner’s prayer is put forth, and once a person says this prayer, they are told to write the date down so they can remember when they were saved.
This is all focused on what the sinner does and not what Christ does. If we are truly to be saved, we must believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. We are not to “say” a prayer, although prayer will result after true belief comes about. We are not told in Scripture to walk an aisle, go to the altar or do any other thing in order to be saved. Simply believe in Christ and His work for salvation. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, and this is NOT of ourselves, but is a gift of God. We are merely passive recipients of God’s grace.
To take and add altar calls and sinner’s prayers to the gospel is no different than the Roman Catholics calling for indulgences in order to be saved. It is Christ plus our works that ends up not saving us at all.
So I am saddened by the actions of the Souther Baptist Convention. They have added works to our salvation. This should be rejected by all Christians, Baptist and non-Baptist alike.
Here is a bit from the story about the SBC:
The resolution was originally presented by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, though the version approved by the committee omitted language designed to refute the denomination’s increasingly Calvinist membership. (An effort to put much of the language back in was defeated in a floor vote, as was an effort to remove references to the phrase “Sinner’s Prayer.”)
Indeed, Hankins says his resolution was sparked by a talk from one of the SBC’s Calvinist stars, David Platt. Speaking at the Verge church leaders’ conference March 1, the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, said the emphasis on the Sinner’s Prayer is unbiblical and damning.
“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life,” Platt said. “Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’? It’s not the gospel we see being preached, it’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.”
Speaking at the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the Baptist’s annual meeting, Platt referenced his Verge sermon, lamenting that his messages “can become three-minute YouTube clips.” But, preaching from John 2-3, he reiterated his statements that believing in Jesus is not enough. “Many assume they are saved simply because of a prayer they prayed,” he said. “It’s not that praying a prayer in and of itself is bad—but the question in John 2 and 3 is what kind of faith are we calling people to?”
The following is from J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, on John 6:1-14 when Jesus fed the 5,000.
Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified, — the old story of His blood, and righteousness, and substitution,– is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We want nothing new,– nothing more broad and kind,– nothing more intellectual,– nothing more efficacious. We want nothing but the true bread of life which Christ bestows, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins.
Even today, with all of man’s inventions and technological advances, we still need the same old gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. Nothing will ever replace that need for mankind because no matter how we rationalize, we are still sinners in need of God’s grace.
I have to say this one convicted me a great deal. Jerry Johnson asks the question of why so many young people are joining moves such as Obama’s campaign in 2008, Ron Paul’s campaign today and the empty-headedness of the Occupy Wall Street movement over the past year, but they don’t join the church?
It’s because of so many inside the church that have pessimistic, doom and gloom, cut-your wrists theologies like Dispensationalism, and pessimistic Amillellinnialist. In other words, far too many believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there is nothing we can do about it… even though we… the church, have the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power unto salvation, which is the message that turned the world on its head 2,000 years ago, and again 500 years ago, and again 250 years ago… Watch the video:
Every time I listen to the White Horse Inn radio broadcast I’m reminded that what we want in the church for our congregation is not moral conformity, but regeneration. I know this may come as a shock to many, since they believe the church to be a place with lots of rules to live by.
Many of you know the rules: Do not smoke, cuss or chew, or go with girls who do. There are many more unspoken rules that are placed upon those of us of faith that are found nowhere in Scripture. For instance, I once has a step-grandfather show moral outrage toward me because me and my father toasted Sam Houston at the dinner table during Thanksgiving one year. I guess there is a little book of rules for pastors that says that pastors shall never show any sense of joy, humor, or camaraderie while dinning with smug moralists. I guess I failed his test for righteousness.
Yet, we all fail all tests for righteousness no matter what rules may be placed before us. This is why the church should not be a place of rules, especially the unspoken ones like: a woman should never wear white shoes after Labor Day! This is really important in high-fashion churches. Another rule I became aware of in the South was that pastors are never, ever, ever, to grow facial hair. Apparently, Jesus wouldn’t be acceptable in such established and righteous churches.
The point is that while we may conform to a lot of spoken and unspoken rules, that is not what we want for our members. We want regeneration for our members. We want our members to be participants of the first resurrection, to be born again, to be made new again by the Holy Spirit. None of those things can happen in a church full of man-made rules.
This is why it is so important that our pastors preach the gospel. This is what is necessary in our churches because the gospel in it’s fullness shows us our inadequacy in living the perfect life. When I say the “perfect life” I do not mean perfect life in some human standard which many may think we have obtained, such as having the perfect job, with a beautiful wife, and 2.5 children, a BMW, a timeshare in the Rockies and one down in Destin, Florida, along with plenty of stocks and bonds for retirement along with a bunch of gold in the closet, and plenty of guns and ammo in preparation for armageddon. That is not the perfect life I’m referring to.
The perfect life I’m referring to means that we are living in complete conformity to God’s Law and His revealed will. This means that we have not sinned at all, not even once, not even a tiny bit. We have been in perfect conformity to all Ten Commandments and have not erred once.
Given that most of us have broken the Seventh Commandment alone, just in our lust of the opposite sex, shows that we don’t measure up in this regard. All it takes to break all Ten Commandments is to break one alone.
The gospel shows us this reality: we are condemned by the Law and the Lawgiver. Yet, there is ONE who did keep the Law perfectly, and did have the perfect life before the Father. He told us He was in perfect communion with the Father and perfect in His obedience to the Father. John 5:30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
There is quite a bit of truth in that statement. Jesus is in a dispute with the Jews who have accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing a man on that day, and by making Himself equal with the Father, which was blasphemous. Jesus doesn’t deny that He healed on the Sabbath. He also doesn’t deny that He is equal with the Father. In fact, He confirms both by saying that He does what the Father directs Him to do with perfect obedience to the Father. For this reason, He is given authority to judge all mankind and give eternal life to those who believe in His word. He has a right to heal on the Sabbath and claim equality with the Father. While the Jews recognized these two realities, they failed to understand them correctly.
To believe these truths about Christ take a converted heart. In other words, we must be born-again in order to believe in Christ for salvation. All the morality in the world cannot bring this about. In fact, morality itself is a hindrance to the gospel because when we obey the moral codes of whatever society in which we live, we are under the illusion that we do not need the gospel, or conversion, or salvation. Morality actually hinders us in seeing our need for Christ. It makes us believe that we are OK in the culture in which we live and therefore, we are OK with God.
We are not OK with God. We all stand condemned as sinners and if we do not believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, we will remain condemned for all of eternity (read John 5:24-30). This is why it is so important that pastors do not preach moralism, but preach Christ crucified. To preach moralism hinders the gospel, and weakens the church. Preaching moralism makes those inside the church think they can do it on their own. But we cannot. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot convert ourselves. We cannot make ourselves morally clean before the Father. We cannot cause ourselves to grow spiritually. We cannot do anything for ourselves.
Only Christ can save us. He is the giver of life. He is the One that we look to be cleaned up and changed. Moralism cannot do this, only Christ alone. This is why the church cannot be a place for moral conformity. It must be a place of humility where we see our true moral bankruptcy, which leads us back to Christ, time and time again. We may be moral in the end, but that is not the goal. The goal is the gospel and the gospel doesn’t need our moral conformity.